Image: Republic World, PTI
Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Pradeep Arakkal from Kerala was among the 13 persons, including Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, who passed away in the IAF chopper crash at the Upper Coonoor region in Tami Nadu on Wednesday. Junior Warrant Officer (JWO) Arakkal who hailed from Ponnukkara in Thrissur was aboard the chopper as a flight gunner, a top source said.
The 37-year-old IAF officer is the son of Radhakrishnan and Kumari of Arakkal House. Pradeep Arakkal's father Radhakrishnan Arakkal is currently on life support due to chronic pulmonary disease. Kerala Revenue Minister K Rajan, who is leading the preparations to receive Pradeep's body in Thrissur, met the bereaving family to offer his condolences. As JWO Pradeep's father condition is critical, he is unaware of his son's untimely demise. The state government is currently awaiting an official intimation with regard to all the arrangements to receive the body.
JWO Pradeep joined the Forces in 2004. JWO Pradeep Arakkal is survived by his wife Sreelakshmi and two children, aged 5 and 2. Reports suggest that the bereaved family of the deceased Officer received the ill-fated information at around 8 pm, following which his brother left for Coimbatore immediately. His family told Republic Media Network that JWO Pradeep had visited his family a week ago to celebrate his son's second birthday, and tagged along with his father to a hospital for treatment. He had resumed duty only four days prior to the mishap on December 8.
Notably, Pradeep has served various units of the IAF since he joined the Forces in 2004, and had been a part of multiple anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh. He has also contributed to the flood relief operations in Uttarakhand in 2013 and search and rescue operations in the Kerala floods in 2018. The team's endeavour and diligence in the aforementioned operations had won praises from authorities, including President Ram Nath Kovind. The Kerala government had also honoured him for being part of the mission in rescuing people in the 2018 Kerala floods.
CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others died in an IAF helicopter crash when the 63-year-old Rawat along with his wife and staff were travelling to Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to deliver a lecture at 2:45 pm. All communications with the IAF Mi-17V5 chopper were lost just minutes before the tragic crash that happened near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. In fact, reports suggest that the crash took place only 10 minutes away from the destination - Wellington.