The government has blamed the unexpected weather for last month’s helicopter crash that killed the chief of India’s armed forces.
An official investigation has concluded that a pilot confused by the sudden change in weather, the helicopter carrying India’s defense chief, General Bipin Rawat, crashed last month, killing all 14 people on board.
The 63-year-old Rawat was traveling with his wife and other senior officers in a Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter, which crashed near its destination in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on December 8.
“The investigative court has ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage or negligence as the cause of the accident,” the Indian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The ministry said the investigation team analyzed the flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, and questioned witnesses to come up with its initial report.
“The accident was the result of entering the clouds due to an unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley,” the statement said. “This resulted in the pilot’s spatial confusion resulting in flight control over the terrain.”
A day after the accident, India’s defense minister said the helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before its supposed landing and did not send out a distress call before it was detected ablaze in a forested area.
Rawat was India’s first defense chief of staff, a position created by the government in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
His death was the subject of extensive coverage in the Indian media, and his flag-covered coffin was dragged through the streets of New Delhi on a wreath-covered gun carriage before his body was cremated.
His and his wife were cremated together in the same crematorium, with 17 salute shots fired while their daughters set fire to it.
Rawat was an outspoken and polarizing, but very popular officer, who came from a military family and actually survived a helicopter accident in 2015, with minor injuries.
The general was going to the Defense Services Personnel College to address students and faculty when the Mi-17 crashed in foggy conditions.