Tragedy in the skies: a chronicle of political leaders killed in air disasters

People attend a funeral ceremony for the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage in the northwestern city of Tabriz on May 21, 2024. (ATA DADASHI/MOJ News Agency/AFP)

People attend a funeral ceremony for the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage in the northwestern city of Tabriz on May 21, 2024. (ATA DADASHI/MOJ News Agency/AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose death in a helicopter crash was announced Monday, is the latest major political leader to die in a plane crash. Here are other leaders killed in aviation accidents.

2024: former Chilean president Sebastián Piñera

On February 6, 2024, former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (in office from 2010 to 2014 and then from 2018 to 2022) died in a helicopter crash in Lago Ranco, a vacation spot 920 kilometers south of the capital, Santiago.

2010: President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski

On April 10, 2010, a Tupolev 154 with 96 people on board, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and senior political and military figures, crashed while attempting to land in thick fog at an airport near Smolensk, in the western Russia.

There were no survivors. The accident was attributed to bad weather and errors by Polish pilots and Russian air traffic controllers.

2005: Sudanese rebel leader-turned-vice president John Garang

On July 30, 2005, John Garang, the former separatist rebel leader who became vice president of Sudan, died when his helicopter crashed in Sudan on a flight returning from Uganda.

2004: Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski died along with eight others when his plane crashed on February 26, 2004, as it was preparing to land in thick fog in the southern Bosnian city of Mostar.

READ | ‘Unthinkable tragedy’: Ramaphosa deeply saddened by death of Iranian President Raisi

1994: Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi

On April 6, 1994, a Falcon 50 carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down over Kigali by at least one missile.

The attack is considered the spark that sparked the genocide of the Tutsi that left at least 800,000 dead, according to the United Nations.

1988: Pakistani president Zia ul-Haq

Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq was among the victims of a plane crash on August 17, 1988 near Bahawalpur in the east of the country.

1986: President of Mozambique, Samora Machel

On October 19, 1986, Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel, died when his Tupolev 134 crashed in northeastern South Africa.

1961: UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld

In September 1961, a plane carrying UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold crashed in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, while attempting to negotiate a ceasefire between warring factions in the former Belgian Congo. The cause of the accident has never been established.