At her home in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Sushila Chauhan now counts every word she spoke during her phone conversation with her son on Tuesday night.
Little did she know then that this was the last time she heard the voice of her son, Wing Commander PS Chauhan.
Hours later, the Air Force officer was killed in the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu that claimed 13 lives, including those of the first Chief of Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat, and his wife Madhulika Rawat.
He was the pilot in command of the Mi-17 V5 helicopter that crashed shortly after it took off from Sulur Air Force Base at 11:45 am, Coimbatore, towards Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills. He leaves behind his wife, a 12-year-old daughter, and a nine-year-old son.
Family members said the Chauhan wing commander was the youngest of five siblings, with four older sisters worshiping him. After leaving Sainik school in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, he joined the Air Force in 2000. The officer married in 2007.
Shocked by the loss of his son, Surendra Singh Chauhan could only say that he learned of the mishap through news reports. “He spoke to everyone with affection.”
Uncle Yashpal Singh Chauhan said they have not yet received any official communication regarding Chauhan’s death.
Mina Singh, the Air Force officer’s sister, said she last met her brother in Rakhi this year. “After 31 years, we all gathered for Rakhi this year. He adored his sisters, if we asked for something, he would make sure it got done,” she said, fighting back tears.
The officer’s mother, Sushila Chauhan, said she had fallen asleep with the television on. “When I woke up, I got a call from his father-in-law. He told me,” he said.
General Rawat was on his way to the Defense Services General Staff College in Wellington to address teachers and students when the accident occurred.
The helicopter would have landed in 10 more minutes when it fell, barely 10 km from a highway. The Air Force has ordered an investigation into what happened.