Iran’s President ‘Feared Dead’ After Helicopter Crash as ‘No Sign of Life’ Detected at Site

‘President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash,’ an Iranian official tells Reuters.

AP/Frank Franklin II
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, approaches the podium to address the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 19, 2023 at New York. AP/Frank Franklin II

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is feared dead after a helicopter crash in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran on Sunday.

“President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash,” an Iranian official told Reuters. “Unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead.”

Rescuers on Monday had found the helicopter that was carrying the Iranian president, 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 press 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 incident comes as Iran under Raisi and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month and has enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Iran has also faced years of mass protests against its Shiite theocracy over an ailing economy and women’s rights — making the moment that much more sensitive for Tehran and the future of the country as the Israel-Hamas war inflames the wider Middle East.

Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said what it called a “hard landing” happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 375 miles northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. Later, state TV put it farther east near the village of Uzi, but details remained contradictory.

With Raisi were Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. One local government official used the word “crash,” but others referred to either a “hard landing” or an “incident.”

Early Monday morning, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be wreckage of helicopter.”

The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire some 12 miles south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

Footage released by the IRNA early Monday showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: “There it is, we found it.”

Shortly after, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: “There is no sign of live from people on board.” It did not elaborate, but the semiofficial Tasnim news agency showed rescuers using a small drone to fly over the site, with them speaking among themselves saying the same thing.

Hard-liners had urged the public to pray. State TV aired images of hundreds of the faithful, some with their hands outstretched in supplication, praying at Imam Reza Shrine at the city of Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest sites, as well as in Qom and other locations across the country. State television’s main channel aired the prayers nonstop.

At Tehran, a group of men kneeling on the side of the street clasped strands of prayer beads and watched a video of Raisi praying, some of them visibly weeping.


The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use