An Indian Air Force helicopter, carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, crashed in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, reported Indian media on Wednesday.
Officials said they were still checking to see if Rawat was among the dead.
“An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the IAF tweeted.
According to Indian media, at least four people are confirmed dead and at least three people have been rescued with serious injuries.
Reports suggest that there were at least 14 people on board the ill-fated helicopter.
CDS Rawat, his wife, defence assistant, security personnel and the IAF aircrew were on board the helicopter when it crashed between Coimbatore and Sulur in Tamil Nadu, said Indian news agency ANI.
Video footage showed rescue workers dousing steaming wreckage in a wooded area.
Rawat was on his way to Wellington in Coonoor from an IAF airbase in Sulur near Coimbatore, sources told Indian media and had left Delhi earlier today.
Tamil Nadu chief minister, MK Stalin, instructed the local administration to provide the best possible medical care to the injured. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have also been briefed over the incident.
Rawat was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in late 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating India’s three services — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.