Former CDS General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat
Former CDS General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika RawatFile

It’s etched forever in our memory, say villagers on helicopter crash

On the first anniversary of the crash incident, the villagers vividly remember the tragic scenes that unfolded on that day.

COIMBATORE: It will be a day etched forever in the memory of people in Nanjappa Chattiram village in Coonoor.

This tribal village nestled adjoining the forest area was relatively unknown even to many in Coonoor, until the M1-17VH helicopter crashed on December 8 killing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 12 others. It was then the village gained national attention.

On the first anniversary of the crash incident, the villagers vividly remember the tragic scenes that unfolded on that day. “Not just on this day annually, but 8th of every month strikes us with the haunting thoughts of the crash incident. So, a group of villagers used to light candles at the crash site every month to pay our condolence,” said S Dharmaraj (29), who works in a private trust and hails from Nanjappa Chattiram village.

On this day, last year, he was visiting his relatives to invite them for his proposed marriage, when he was informed over phone of the shocking incident at around 1.30 pm. He then rushed within half an hour to the spot, barely 100 metres from his village.

“I joined our group of villagers, already there in bringing water in whatever vessels available in our houses to put out the raging fire. The severed chopper appeared like a huge ball of flame and its crackling sound sent us in jittery. But, the villagers didn’t give up our efforts and also pitched in with blankets to cover up and form cradles to carry the rescued defence staff. The victims were completely charred and remained unidentifiable,” added Dharmaraj.

The villagers, however lamented that despite their hard efforts not even a single life could be saved. “It would have been a solace for us, if at least one person survived the crash,” the villagers said.

S Mubarak, a shopkeeper from Coonoor Market said that what he saw on the crash site after the rescue operation was horrific as there were severed body parts strewn around. “I was among the few to collect them in a sack and send them by ambulance,” he said.

In recognition of their timely help, the Indian army felicitated the villagers, conducted medical camps every month. With almost a year gone by, the villagers desperately hope that the Kattery Horticulture Park in Coonoor will be named after Gen Bipin Rawat in a tribute to those who lost their lives.

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