Helicopter Carrying President of Iran Goes Down in Forest

Rescue crews struggle to reach Ebrahim Raisi
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 19, 2024 10:50 AM CDT
Helicopter Carrying President of Iran Goes Down in Forest
An Iranian state-TV reports on an incident involving a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in northwestern Iran on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a "hard landing" on Sunday, Iranian state media reported, without elaborating. Some began urging the public to pray for Raisi and the others on board as rescue crews sped through a misty, rural forest where his helicopter was believed to be. Raisi, 63, was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. State TV said the incident 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, the AP reports.

Traveling with Raisi were Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of East Azerbaijan province, and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. One local government official used the word "crash" to describe the incident, but he acknowledged to an Iranian newspaper that he had yet to reach the site himself. Neither IRNA nor state TV offered any information on Raisi's condition in the hours afterward. "The esteemed president and company were on their way back aboard some helicopters and one of the helicopters was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in comments aired on state TV.

"Various rescue teams are on their way to the region but because of the poor weather and fogginess it might take time for them to reach the helicopter," Vahidi said, adding, "The region is a bit (rugged) and it's difficult to make contact." Rescuers attempting to reach the site were hampered by weather conditions, reports said, per the AP. IRNA called the area a forest, and the region is known to be mountainous as well. State TV aired images of SUVs racing through a wooded area. A rescue helicopter couldn't land in the area due to the heavy mist, an emergency services spokesman told IRNA. Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them.

(More Iran stories.)

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