The Indian Air Force announced the death of Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife among 11 people were killed in a helicopter crash.
"With deep grief it has been confirmed that General Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat, and 11 people on board the helicopter were killed in the unfortunate accident," the Indian Air Force said on Twitter.
Rawat was traeling from the Indian Air Force base in Solor to the Defense Services Staff College in Tamil Nadu to give a lecture. The mountain town Coonoor is on the itinerary.
Narendra Modi appointed Indian Prime Minister Rawat as the first Chief of Defense Staff in late 2019.
This position was created with the aim of achieving integration between the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
The Air Force stated that Rawat was traveling in a Mi-17V5 helicopter.
India owns dozens of those Russian-made military helicopters that are used in the army as well as senior government ministers when they visit military sites.
"The helicopter is safe and efficient. I have flown on it before in difficult situations," J.J Singh, the former Army Chief said.
Video footage from Asia International News Agency (ANI) showed rescue workers threw water on smoky debris in a forest area.
"Orders have been issued to open an investigation to determine the cause of the accident," the Air Force said on Twitter.
Contributed by Israa Farhan