Group Captain Varun Singh, who was the lone survivor from the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter crash that claimed the lives of India’s first CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife and others, passed away at the IAF Command Hospital here early on 15 December. The Mi-17V5 helicopter crash had claimed 13 of the 14 people on the same day, while Group Captain Singh was moved from Wellington’s Military Hospital to Command Hospital on 9 December, after getting initial treatment in Wellington.
While the crash is being investigated by all the three services separately as well as in coordination with one another, the death of Group Captain Varun Singh means that the sleuths will miss the only eyewitness to the incident.
Receiving the news of the death with dismay, strategic affairs writer Brahma Chellaney wrote on Twitter, “When Taiwan’s chief of general staff was killed, five of the other 12 survived, even though their helicopter crash-landed on a mountain. But none has survived after the helicopter with India’s CDS and 13 others crash-landed on a flat tea garden. The reason? It burst into flames.”
Chellaney had earlier suspected a Chinese hand in the crash.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Group Captain Singh’s death saying, “Group Captain Varun Singh served the nation with pride, valour and utmost professionalism. I am extremely anguished by his passing away. His rich service to the nation will never be forgotten. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti.”
Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted, “Deeply pained to learn about the passing away of Group Captain Varun Singh, who was battling with the injuries after the helicopter accident in Coonoor. May God bless the Brave’s soul and give strength to his family. My deepest condolences. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.”
To the tweet by the official handle of the IAF, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reacted, saying, “Pained beyond words to learn of the demise of IAF pilot, Group Captain Varun Singh. He was a true fighter who fought till his last breath. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family and friends. We stand firmly with the family, in this hour of grief.”
Until Tuesday, doctors had maintained that his condition was “critical but stable”, and on Wednesday, the IAF said in a tweet: “IAF is deeply saddened to inform the passing away of braveheart Group Captain Varun Singh, who succumbed this morning to the injuries sustained in the helicopter accident on 08 Dec 21. IAF offers sincere condolences and stands firmly with the bereaved family.”
A more detailed official statement is expected later in the day.
Group Captain Singh was travelling with General Rawat as his liaison officer for a visit to the Wellington-based Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), where the CDS was to deliver a lecture.
He was conferred the Shaurya Chakra in August for averting a possible mid-air accident after his Tejas light combat aircraft developed a major technical snag last year.