Raisi's Chief Of Staff Describes Final Moments

Iran President Raisi's Chief Of Staff Describes Downed Helicopter's Final Moments

by Staff Writer 22-05-2024 | 11:24 AM

Iran’s presidential chief of staff has revealed more details about a helicopter crash which led to the martyrdom of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and two top local officials.

Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Monday (20) in an interview with the state TV that weather conditions in Iran’s Varzaqan region, where president Raisi’s copter crashed, was perfect at the start and during most of the flight that took place a day earlier.

Esmaili was in one of the three helicopters that were returning from a dam inauguration ceremony on Iran’s border with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

He said the helicopters had taken off at around 1:00 p.m. local time on May 19 while weather condition in the area was normal.

After 45 minutes into the flight, the pilot of president Raeisi’s helicopter who was in charge of the convoy, ordered other helicopters to increase altitude to avoid a nearby cloud.

However, the president’s helicopter, which was flying between the two others, suddenly disappeared.

“After 30 seconds of flying over the clouds, our pilot noticed that the helicopter in the middle had disappeared,” said Esmaili, adding that the pilot decided to circle and return to search for the president’s helicopter.

Easmaili said that after several attempts to contact president’s helicopter through radio devices, and while it was unable to decrease altitude because of the clouds, their helicopter continued its flight and landed at a nearby copper mine.

He said foreign minister Amirabdollahian and head of president’s protection unit didn’t respond to repeated calls afterwards.

The official said, however, that pilots of the two other helicopters had contacted Captain Mostafavi, who was in charge of the president’s helicopter, but the one who took the call was Tabriz Friday prayer leader Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, whose situation was not good but said the copter had crashed into a valley.

Esmaili himself made a second contact with Ale-Hashem and received the same answers about the situation.

“When we found the location of the accident, the conditions of the bodies indicated that Ayatollah Raeisi and other companions had died instantly but Ale-Hashem had been martyred after several hours,” he said.

Second Interview Report:

During a 21 May interview on the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's Chief of Staff Gholam Hossein Esmaili narrates what he witnessed in the moments before the helicopter incident that took the lives of Iran's president, his Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and seven of their companions.

Esmaili was traveling in the three-helicopter convoy, and was in one of the two choppers that reached their destination safely.

Esmaili: After our noon prayers, we departed toward the direction of Tabriz. The weather was clear, there was no weather condition to be worried about. After half an hour being in the air, prior to reaching the Sungun copper mine, there was a small patch of clouds.

Interviewer: So there was no fog?

Esmaili: Not at all. There was fog on the ground, but not in up the air where we were advancing with the helicopters. However in one small compacted area, there was a small patch of clouds above a cliff. In terms of height, this cloud was on the same height as our flight’s height.

It was there when the now-martyred helicopter pilot, who was also the commander of the fleet, that told the rest of the pilots to ascend above the clouds. We were the 3rd pilot, behind the president’s helicopter. We came above the clouds, we advanced for approximately 30 seconds. Our pilot suddenly realised that the main helicopter carrying the president is missing.

Interviewer: You didn’t see the helicopter anymore after ascending?

Esmaili: Yes exactly, after ascending above the clouds, we didn’t see the main helicopter. The ascension itself didn’t feel difficult or hard. Sometimes, when we use the plane we feel turbulence but we didn’t feel anything at all inside the helicopter this time, when ascending. And after we ascended there were no other clouds.

Interviewer: So beyond this, there were no weather forecasts mentioning any disturbances in the weather to make it unsafe?

Esmaili: No there wasn’t any. Shortly after, we were able to see beneath us and there were no clouds anymore and we had reached the area of the copper mine. We realised however that our pilot is making an U-turn suddenly so I asked him why? He said that one of our helicopters is missing. We estimate that they made an emergency landing, because we also have no radio contact with it anymore. So I asked him when was the last time contact was made? The pilot answered, “A minute and 30 seconds ago, when the pilot told us to ascend above the clouds.”

Our pilot circled around the area a couple of times, but the area with the cloud patch was also invisible to us and it was too risky to enter that area. We failed several times to make any radio contact. We were forced to make a landing after 30 seconds at the Sungun copper mine to investigate.

During the flight, we had continuous cell phone calls with the passengers, including the bodyguard, Mr. Abdollahian, the governor of East-Azerbaijan and the Friday imam of Tabriz. However we tried calling all of them without luck.

After some tries, calling the cellphone of the captain accompanying the president, someone picked the phone. It was Ayatollah Hashem, the friday imam of Tabriz. He told us that I’m not feeling well. He didn’t tell us anything special. I asked him what exactly has happened? He told us that he didn’t know what has happened, when asked on his whereabouts, he said that he didn’t know. He only described what he could see, described to us what he saw, e.g. surrounded by trees. I asked him about the condition of the others, the Ayatollah replied that he’s alone and couldn’t see anyone else and he’s alone.

The copper mine had good facilities such as ambulances and the necessary vehicles. We formed a team to go and search for them. We requested for immediate emergency help as well.