The government blamed unexpected weather that led to the helicopter crash last month that killed the head of India’s armed forces.
A pilot who was disoriented by a sudden change in weather conditions crashed the helicopter carrying India’s Chief of Defense General Bipin Rawat last month. all 14 people killed on board, an official investigation has found.
The 63-year-old Rawat was traveling with his wife and other senior officers in the Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter, which crashed near its destination in southern Tamil Nadu state on December 8.
“The court of inquiry has ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage or negligence as a cause of the accident,” India’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Friday.
The ministry said the investigation team analyzed the flight data recorder, cabin voice recorder and interviewed witnesses to come up with its preliminary report.
“The accident was a result of entering clouds due to unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley,” the statement read. “This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot which led to controlled flight to terrain.”
A day after the crash, India’s defense minister said the helicopter Lose contact with air traffic control seven minutes before it was supposed to land and did not send an emergency call until it was found in flames in a wooded area.
Rawat was India’s first head of defense personnel, a post the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
His death was the subject of wall-to-wall coverage in Indian media, and his flag-covered coffin was dragged through the streets of New Delhi on a gun cart draped with flower wreaths before being cremated.
He and his wife were cremated together on the same stake, with a salute of 17 rifles fired when their daughters set it on fire.
Rawat was an outspoken and polarizing but extremely popular officer who came from a military family and had already survived a helicopter crash in 2015, with minor injuries.
The general was on his way to the Defense Services Staff College to address students and faculty when the Mi-17 helicopter crashed in foggy conditions.