Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi joins list of top leaders who died in aviation disasters

(Left to right) Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski and former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, who died in aviation disasters. — Reuters/File

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, whose death in a helicopter crash was announced Monday, is the latest major political leader to die in an aviation crash. Here are some of the best known among the others:

2024: Former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera

On 6 February 2024, former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera (in office from 2010-2014, and then 2018-2022), died in a helicopter crash at Lago Ranco, a vacation site 920 kilometres (570 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

2010: Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski

On 10 April 2010, a Tupolev 154 with 96 people aboard including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and senior political and military figures, crashed while trying to land in thick fog at an airport near Smolensk in western Russia.

There were no survivors. The crash was attributed to bad weather as well as errors by the Polish pilots and Russian air traffic controllers.

2005: Rebel leader turned Sudanese vice-president John Garang

On 30 July 2005, John Garang, the former separatist rebel leader who became vice-president of Sudan, died when his helicopter crashed in Sudan on a flight back from Uganda.

2004: Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski

Macedonia’s president Boris Trajkovski was killed along with eight others when his plane crashed on February 26 2004, as it prepared to land in thick fog in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar.

1994: Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi

On 6 April 1994, a Falcon 50 transporting Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down over Kigali by at least one missile.

The attack is considered the spark that unleashed the genocide of Tutsis that left at least 800,000 dead, according to the United Nations.

1988: Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq

Pakistan’s president Zia ul-Haq was among the victims of a 17 August 1988 plane crash near Bahawalpur, in the country’s east.

1986: Mozambique President Samora Machel

On 19 October 1986, Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel died when his Tupolev 134 went down in the north-east of South Africa.

1961: UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold

On September 17 or 18 of 1961, a plane carrying the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold crashed in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, while attempting to negotiate a ceasefire between warring factions in the former Belgian Congo. The cause of the crash has never been established.

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