Iran’s president’s chief of staff revealed new details moments after the helicopter crashed

Iran’s president’s chief of staff revealed new details moments after the helicopter crashed

The late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s chief of staff has revealed new details about the hours after the president’s helicopter went missing.

Gholam Hossein Esmaili was in one of three helicopters returning from the inauguration ceremony of a dam on Iran’s border with Azerbaijan, he said in an interview with state TV IRINN, and was reported by Iran’s semi-official Mehr News agency on Tuesday.

The helicopter carrying nine people encountered bad weather on the return journey and disappeared, prompting an hours-long overnight search in the mountainous area.

On the return flight on Sunday, three helicopters took off at around 1pm. local time Sunday “while the weather conditions in the area are normal,” Esmaili said, as quoted by Mehr News.

He said the weather conditions in the mountainous area of Varzeghan – where the crash happened – were perfect at the start of the flight.

“After 45 minutes in flight, the pilot of President Raisi’s helicopter, who was in charge of the convoy, ordered the other helicopters to increase altitude to avoid nearby clouds,” Esmaili said.
“However, the presidential helicopter, which was flying between the other two, suddenly disappeared,” Esmaili added, as quoted by Mher news.
About 30 seconds into the cloud, Esmaili said his pilot realized the helicopter in the middle had disappeared. The pilot circled around to find the president’s helicopter, he said.

Esmaili said several attempts were made to contact the presidential helicopter via radio devices before their helicopter continued its flight and landed at a nearby copper mine. Esmail said the pilot of the helicopter he was on could not lower his altitude because of the clouds.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and the head of the presidential protection unit, who were in the same helicopter as Raisi, did not answer repeated calls after the helicopter disappeared, Esmaili said.

“The pilots of the other two helicopters have contacted Captain Mostafavi, who is in charge of the presidential helicopter,” he said.
One person lived for three hours: Tabriz’s Friday prayer imam, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Alehashem, was able to answer the pilot’s phone and say the helicopter had crashed into a valley and he was in critical condition, Esmaili added.

Esmaili said after they found the location of the helicopter crash, it was clear from the condition of the bodies of Raisi, Abdollahian and others that they “died instantly.”

Alehashem was alive for at least three hours after the crash and was able to speak to officers several times before he died, Esmaili said.

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