‘No Sign of Life’ at Crash Site of Helicopter Carrying Iran’s President, Foreign Minister Northwest of Tehran

As the sun rose Monday, rescuers saw the helicopter from a distance of some 1.25 miles, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society told state press.

AP/Vahid Salemi
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. AP/Vahid Salemi

Updated at 11:15 p.m. E.D.T.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rescuers on Monday found a helicopter that was carrying the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister, and other officials that had apparently crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran the day before, though “no sign of life” was detected, state media reported.

As the sun rose Monday, rescuers saw the helicopter from a distance of some 1.25 miles, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state press. He did not elaborate and the officials had been missing at that point by over 12 hours.

The helicopter had suffered what was initially described as a “hard landing” on Sunday leading to a frantic search for survivors.

Mr. Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said the incident happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with Azerbaijan, some 375 miles northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Traveling with Mr. Raisi were Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Late Sunday, state television reported that rescuers had reached the site after being hampered for several hours by poor weather conditions.

There had been heavy rain and fog reported with some wind. IRNA called the area a “forest.”

Mr. Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River.

The visit came despite chilly relations between the two nations, including over a gun attack on Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Tehran in 2023, and Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel.

Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mr. Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.

Mr. Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Mr. Raisi is sanctioned by the United States in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under Mr. Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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