What we know about Iranian President Raisi’s death in helicopter crash

The incident occured in a mountainous region amid poor weather conditions

A screengrab shows the crash site of the helicopter that was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in East Azerbaijan province. AFP
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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died after his helicopter crashed in a mountainous region in the north-west of the country, state media confirmed on Monday.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also on board, along with the governor of East Azerbaijan and the province's imam.

Timeline of what happened

More than 12 hours ago, Iranian state television reported a helicopter carrying Mr Raisi had been in an accident in the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province amid poor weather.

The accident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan, the official IRNA news agency said.

Early on Monday, Iran's Red Crescent chief Pir Hossein Kolivand said rescue teams had located the helicopter and were heading to the site.

Mr Raisi had earlier inaugurated a dam project with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

On Sunday, Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi described the accident as a “hard landing due to the weather”.

The two other helicopters in Mr Raisi's convoy landed safely in the north-western city of Tabriz.

Mr Vahidi said it was “difficult to establish communication” with the third helicopter which was carrying Mr Raisi.

Rescue efforts

A total of 73 rescue teams were involved in the search, according to the Red Crescent, with IRNA saying search dogs and drones were being used.

Army personnel along with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the police had also been sent to the area, the army's chief of staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri said.

Red Crescent rescue teams were seen on state TV on a steep slope as they attempted to approach the helicopter's location amid thick fog.

At about 6am on Monday, rescuers from the Iranian Red Crescent confirmed that had found the helicopter that was carrying Iran’s president and other officials using a drone.

About 20 minutes later, state TV reported that there were “no signs” of life among passengers “as of yet”.

Local media then shared multiple images of what appeared to be the wreckage of the aircraft.

Iranian media outlets like the semi-official Mehr news agency declared Mr Raisi dead though there had been no official confirmation yet from either the government or state television and media.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, had an accident while serving and performing his duty for the people of Iran and was martyred,” said Mehr news agency, with other outlets also reporting the news.

At exactly 8am local time, IRNA published its confirmation on social media, leading with the following message: “Indeed, we belong to Allah, and indeed, to Him we return. Ayatollah Raisi, the beloved president of our country, was martyred in a helicopter crash in Varzaghan region of East Azerbaijan and joined the Supreme Kingdom (heaven)".

What happens next?

Under Iran's constitution, Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will now take over presidential duties given Mr Raisi’s confirmed death.

Presidential elections will then be held within 50 days, according to the constitution.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 10:24 AM