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Ebrahim Raisi death: Here's a list of other leaders who died in air crashes

After Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was announced dead following a helicopter crash, here's a look at other prominent leaders who have died in air disasters

Ramon Magsaysay, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Source/Wikipedia)

Ramon Magsaysay, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Source/Wikipedia)

Abhijeet Kumar New Delhi
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was declared dead on Monday, shortly after the wreckage of his crashed helicopter was discovered in the mountainous northwest of Iran.

Raisi, along with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others, was confirmed dead at the accident site, as informed by an official to Reuters. The rescue team reached the location after an extensive search operation. 

Raisi, born in 1960 into a devout family in Iran’s holy Shia Muslim city of Mashhad, faced allegations from rights groups for overseeing a committee responsible for executing numerous political prisoners in Tehran in 1988, towards the end of Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq.

Here is a list of other aircraft disasters which killed political leaders:

Sebastian Pinera, former president of Chile (2024)

Sebastian Pinera, the former President of Chile, died in February 2024 when his helicopter crashed into a lake in southern Chile. Pinera, a prominent figure in Chilean politics, served two non-consecutive terms as president.

His second presidency was marked by significant social unrest, particularly in 2019, with widespread protests over issues such as inequality and the cost of living. His administration faced criticism for its handling of the protests and allegations of human rights abuses by security forces.

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan (1988)

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the sixth President of Pakistan, passed away on August 17, 1988. His C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Bahawalpur. The cause of the crash remains unclear, with theories suggesting possibilities ranging from mechanical failure to sabotage.

Haq came to power through a military coup in July 1977, overthrowing the government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was later hanged.  His regime was characterised by the imposition of martial law, the suppression of political opposition.

Rashid Karami, Prime Minister of Lebanon (1987)

Rashid Karami, the most frequently elected Prime Minister of Lebanon, was a notable leader during the Lebanese Civil War. On June 1, 1987, a bomb detonated in his helicopter while he was travelling to Beirut, resulting in his death and injuring several others on board.

He was known for his efforts to promote stability and unity within Lebanon, particularly during periods of political turmoil and sectarian tensions. However, his political career was marked by controversies and challenges, including tensions with rival political factions and periods of unrest within the country.

Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, President of Brazil (1967)

Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, the 26th President of Brazil and a significant figure in the former military dictatorship, died on July 18, 1967. After his presidency, Castelo Branco’s Piper PA-23 Aztec collided mid-air with a Brazilian Air Force Lockheed T-33, resulting in his death.

Despite his efforts to stabilise the country, Branco’s presidency was characterised by political repression, censorship, and human rights violations. His administration laid the groundwork for the authoritarian rule that persisted in Brazil for over two decades.

Abdul Salam Arif, President of Iraq (1966)

Abdul Salam Arif, who served as the second President of Iraq, was instrumental in the 1958 revolution that toppled the monarchy. Tragically, on April 13, 1966, Arif lost his life when his Iraqi Air Force plane, a de Havilland DH.104 Dove, crashed near Basra. Following his death, his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, succeeded him as president.

He rose to power after leading a coup against the government of Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. Arif's presidency was marked by political instability and attempts to navigate Iraq through the complexities of Cold War politics. 

Ramon Magsaysay, President of the Philippines (1957)

Ramon Magsaysay, the seventh President of the Philippines, was recognised for his firm stance against corruption and his populist charm. His presidency came to a sudden end on March 17, 1957, when his plane, a C-47 named "Mt. Pinatubo," crashed into Mount Manunggal in Cebu. Out of the 25 passengers on board, only one survived.

Before his presidency, Magsaysay gained popularity as a military leader during World War II, where he fought against Japanese occupation forces as a guerilla leader. After the war, he entered politics and held various government positions, including serving as Secretary of National Defence under President Elpidio Quirino.

He initiated campaigns against corruption and initiated agrarian reform programs to empower farmers. His administration also focused on infrastructure development and promoting economic growth.

Notably, a few prominent Indian political figures too have lost their lives in air accidents.

YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Congress (2009)

Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, often referred to as YSR, was a prominent Congress leader from Andhra Pradesh. He served as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh from 2004 until his death in a helicopter crash in 2009.

Madhavrao Scindia, Congress leader (2001)

Madhavrao Scindia, a notable Indian politician and member of the Congress party, passed away in a plane crash on September 30, 2001. The accident happened near Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh when his private Beechcraft King Air C90 caught fire while in flight.

He served as the Minister of Railways in the Government of India and also held other important portfolios like Civil Aviation and Human Resource Development. 

Sanjay Gandhi, Indian politician and Congress leader (1980)

Sanjay Gandhi, the son of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, passed away on June 23, 1980. His life tragically ended when he lost control of his aircraft at Delhi's Safdarjung airport.

Mohan Kumaramangalam, Congress (1973)

Mohan Kumaramangalam, a senior Congress leader and then Minister for Steel and Mines, died in an Indian Airlines crash near New Delhi. The flight was en-route from Kolkata to Delhi.

He was known for his strong support for state control over key industries, which was a cornerstone of India's economic policy during the 1970s.

He held the portfolios of Steel and Mines and later, Parliamentary Affairs. He was instrumental in the nationalisation of coal mines and the steel industry, which were key policies of the Indira Gandhi government aimed at expanding public sector enterprises.

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First Published: May 20 2024 | 3:23 PM IST

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