Many world leaders died, few survived in aviation accidents since 1936


The crash of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday brought many similar incidents under the spotlight in which heads of state or government survived or lost their lives.

Anadolu compiled helicopter and plane crashes involving heads of state and government dating back to 1936.

On Dec. 9, 1936, then-Swedish Prime Minister Arvid Lindman died when the Douglas DC-2 plane he was in crashed into houses near Croydon Airport in dense fog just after take-off.

On Sept. 7, 1940, Paraguayan President Marshal Jose Felix Estigarribia died in a plane crash.

On July 4, 1943, Polish soldier and statesman Wladyslaw Sikorski, who led Poland’s government in exile during World War II, died when his plane crashed in Gibraltar.

On June 16, 1958, the then Interim President of Brazil, Nereu Ramos, died when a plane belonging to Cruzeiro Airlines crashed.

On March 29, 1959, Barthelemy Boganda, president of the Central African Republic and a hero of independence, passed away after his plane crashed.

On Sept. 18, 1961, the plane of then-UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, who was on duty to mediate peace in the Congo, crashed in today’s Zambia. Sixteen people, including Hammarskjold, died in the accident.

On April 13, 1966, Iraqi President Abdul Salam Arif died in a helicopter crash. Arif came to power through a coup in February 1963.

On April 27, 1969, Bolivian President Rene Barrientos died when his helicopter crashed in the city of Cochabamba.

On Jan. 18, 1977, Yugoslavian Prime Minister Dzemal Bijedic’s Learjet 25 plane crashed into Inac Mountain near the city of Kresevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bijedic, his wife and six other people died in the accident.

On May 27, 1979, a plane carrying Mauritanian Prime Minister Ahmed Ould Bouceif, who was going to attend an African summit, crashed off the coast of Dakar. Bouceif died in the accident.

On Dec. 4, 1980, Portuguese Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro and Defense Minister Adelino Amaro da Costa died when their plane crashed in the capital Lisbon just after takeoff.

On May 24, 1981, Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos Aguilera and Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Marco Subia Martinez lost their lives when the plane they were on crashed near the Peruvian border.

On July 31, 1981, Panamanian President Omar Torrijos died when the small plane he was flying crashed into a forest.

On Oct. 19, 1986, a twin-engine plane carrying Mozambican President Samora Machel and several Mozambican ministers crashed near the Mozambique-South African border. Thirty-three people died in the accident including Machel, some ministers and high-ranking officials of the Mozambican government. In the investigations carried out after the accident, the pilot was found guilty.

On June 1, 1987, Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami lost his life when a bomb exploded in the helicopter he was on board to go to Beirut. The remote-controlled bomb, weighing approximately 300 grams and placed behind the seat where he would sit, was detonated shortly after it took off. Only Karami died in the accident.

On Aug. 17, 1988, a C-130 military aircraft carrying Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq, his five generals and US Ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel crashed near Bahawalpur, approximately 530 kilometers south of the capital Islamabad. In the accident in which there were no survivors, investigators focused on the possibility of sabotage.

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was fired on near Kigali Airport. There were no survivors from the plane that crashed in the area where the presidential palace is located.

On Feb. 26, 2004, a plane carrying Boris Trajkovski, who served as the second president of Macedonia, and his accompanying delegation crashed near the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Eight people, including Trajkovski and his advisors, died in the accident. An international commission established to investigate the plane crash announced in a report shared with the public after two years of research that the plane crash was the result of “pilot error.”

On April 10, 2010, a Tupolev 154 plane carrying 96 people including Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski and his wife arrived at Russia’s Smolensk Airport, where they were to attend a ceremony commemorating the Katyn Massacre, in which approximately 22,000 Poles were executed during the Stalin period. While landing, the plane crashed into a forest area. There were no survivors.

On Feb. 5, 2024, a Robinson R-66 helicopter carrying former Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his entourage crashed into Lake Ranco in the Los Rios region. The helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff due to heavy rain and dense fog. Three people managed to jump into the lake and get to shore Pinera died because he could not unfasten his seat belt.

Heads of state who survived plane or helicopter crashes

On Apr. 11, 1955, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai survived an assassination attempt on an Air India plane he had chartered for Indonesia. Zhou, who changed his travel plans at the last minute upon notice, did not board the plane. The plane crashed into the South China Sea after a bomb exploded. Eleven passengers lost their lives and three survived.

On Feb. 17, 1959, Adnan Menderes, the ninth prime minister of Türkiye, was 4.5 kilometers away from Gatwick Airport in London, where he had gone to sign an agreement on Cyprus between Türkiye, England and Greece. He survived when his plane crashed. In the accident, 14 people, including then Anadolu Director-General Serif Arzik, lost their lives and seven people, including the crew and passengers, were injured.

On Feb. 9, 1977, former Queen of Jordan A Alia Toukan died in a helicopter crash in the city of Tafila. Toukan’s husband, King Hussein bin Talal, survived the accident. The Jordanian Minister of Health at the time, Mohammed al‐Beshir, lost his life in the accident, which occurred due to a violent rainstorm.

In June 1994, King Charles III of England, who was the Prince of Wales at the time, lost control of the plane he was flying due to strong winds, causing it to crash. Although no one was injured in the incident, more than $1 million of damage occurred.

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