What other leaders have died in aircraft crashes? Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi only the latest

What other leaders have died in aircraft crashes? Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi only the latest


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were confirmed dead Monday after their helicopter crashed in a mountainous region of the country.

The helicopter, manufactured by U.S. company Bell, plummeted in a remote area blanketed with fog near the border with Azerbaijan. The bodies of Raisi and Amirabdollahian, along with six others on board, were found on Monday after a search.

The pair are not the first world leaders to lose their lives in an aircraft crash. Sebastián Piñera, who served two terms as the president of Chile, was killed when his helicopter crashed in February.

Through the years, the deaths of both American and international politicians in such crashes have stirred grief, blame, and conspiracy theories.

Paul Wellstone

Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash in 2002, just 11 days before he was up for re-election for a third term as Minnesota’s Democratic senator. His wife, Sheila, and 33-year-old daughter, Marcia Wellstone, were also killed, along with three members of his campaign.

The plane, a Beechcraft King Air A100, crashed as Wellstone was on the way to a funeral in Virginia. It went down less than an hour after it took off from St. Paul, Minnesota, according to the Chicago Tribune.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board named the probable cause of the crash as the pilots’ failure to “maintain adequate air speed,” causing an “aerodynamic stall” that the plane could not recover from.

At a memorial service held days after Wellstone’s death, around 20,000 people filled two sports stadiums at the University of Minnesota, the New York Times reported.

A six-acre memorial site in Wellstone’s honor now stands near the wooded area in northeastern Minnesota where the plane went down.

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Thomas Hale Boggs Sr.

Rep. Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., who served as the Democratic representative for Louisiana and was the father of journalist Cokie Roberts, disappeared on a campaign flight in Alaska in 1972.

Rep. Nick Begich, a first-term Democratic representative from Alaska, was also on board the flight, along with one of his aides.

It set off the most intensive search-and-rescue operation up to that point in history – 40 military aircraft and 50 civilian planes poured over an area of 325,000 square miles over more than 3,600 hours in search of the lost plane, according to Politico.

The search was called off after 39 days. No trace of the plane was ever found. Begich was declared dead in December of the same year, according to his scholarship fund, and Boggs was declared dead around a month later.

After his death, Boggs’ wife, Corinne Claiborne “Lindy” Boggs ran for Congress and went on to serve for 15 years.

Mel Carnahan

A plane crash also cut short the senatorial bid of Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed in 2000 while headed to a campaign event.

Incumbent Republican Sen. John Ashcroft was leading the race when Carnahan was alive, but after he took a 10-day break from campaigning out of respect for the late governor, the winds changed, the New York Times reported.

Then, Carnahan’s wife Jean Carnahan announced that she would “do what Mel would have wanted me to do” and took on the electoral mantle of her husband. Three weeks after his death, she won the election.

She went on to serve in the position for two years until a special election was held.

A jury ruled four years later that faulty vacuum pumps made by Parker Hannifin Corporation were behind the plane’s crash and awarded Carnahan’s family $4 million in damages, NBC reported.

More: Air Force pilot-instructor dies after seat of training plane ejects at Texas base

Ron Brown

A diplomatic mission ended in tragedy when Ron Brown, then-President Bill Clinton’s secretary of commerce, was killed along with 34 other people when his plane crashed in Croatia in 1996.

Brown was on a trade mission with a group of business leaders interested in exploring business opportunities in the central European country, according to Politico.

An investigation by the Air Force later concluded the pilot of the plane committed basic errors that led to the crash. The landing system at the airport in Dubrovnik, Brown’s destination, was also improper, according to the probe, which took two months and filled a more-than-7,000-page report. Three commanders who worked with the flight crew were fired as a result.

Conspiracies swirled around the death of Brown, a Democratic party insider. They sparked demonstrations demanding more information on his death and accusing the Clinton administration of involvement.

Mickey Leland

Less than a decade before Brown’s death, Texas Rep. Mickey Leland was also killed in an overseas plane crash. Leland died in Ethiopia in 1989 while on a mission to combat world hunger, the cause that defined his activism and work in Congress.

The burned wreckage of the plane was later found on a mountainside in the East African nation. Everyone on board was killed, including Leland’s chief of staff.

An investigation by the Ethiopian government found that the crew may have flown too low into a bad weather and “unknowingly collided with a mountain,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

When he died, Leland was on a relief mission to a refugee camp that sheltered thousands of children displaced by conflict in neighboring Sudan, according to the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger & Peace at Texas Southern University.

When he died at 44, Leland had already become the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as chairing the House Select Committee on Hunger, which he formed.

More: Medical plane crashes in North Carolina, injuring pilot and doctor on board

International leaders killed in plane crashes

The death of then-United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in a 1961 plane crash set off of waves of suspicion surrounding the Swedish statesman’s untimely death. Two investigations by British officials blamed pilot error for the crash of the chartered DC-6 plane carrying Hammarskjöld and 14 other people, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

But Hammarskjöld had enemies – his decision to send U.N. peacekeeping troops into Congo angered the Soviet Union, which demanded his resignation. The questions were far from resolved in 2017, when a Tanzanian judge appointed by the U.N. to carry out an independent investigation into his death found no definitive conclusion, writing that an “external attack or threat” was “plausible.”

Ramon Magsaysay, the 4-year president of the Philippines who the U.S. staunchly supported in the hopes of undermining communist movements in the region, died along with 24 others when his plane crashed in the province of Cebu.

The death of Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, another U.S. ally who served as the president of Pakistan, also triggered questions of a possible assassination. After seizing power in a 1977 coup, Zia ordered his rival Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto executed, suspended other political parties, and declared martial law in the country.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan two years later, the U.S. strengthened its ties with Zia and pumped money into Pakistan’s military. Zia’s plane exploded in mid-air in 1988, killing both him and Arnold Lewis Raphel, Reagan’s ambassador to Pakistan, causing Pakistani officials to open an investigation, the New York Times reported.

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