A military helicopter carrying Indian Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and 13 others crashed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, officials said.
The Indian Air Force said Gen. Rawat, who also served as army chief, was travelling in a Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter, which met an accident near the town of Coonoor. He was flying from an Indian Air Force base in Sulur to the Defense Services Staff College in Wellington.
"An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident," it said on Twitter.
While a rescue operation is underway in the area, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said 14 people were onboard the chopper.
"I've instructed the local administration to provide all the help needed in rescue operations even as I'm rushing to the spot," he wrote on Twitter.
The number of casualties is not yet officially known, but according to India's ANI news agency, 13 of the 14 involved in the crash have been confirmed dead.
Meanwhile, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who is expected to brief parliament on the incident, visited Rawat's residence in the capital New Delhi.
Video footage on Indian news channels showed rescue workers dousing the chopper’s wreckage in a forested area.
Rawat was appointed India's first chief of defense staff in 2019, a position established in 2019 for coordination between the country's three armed services – the army, navy, and air force.