Iranian President Raisi's Helicopter Goes Down In Remote Area, Rescuers Trying To Reach Site

Update(1315ET): Several hours into a massive search and rescue operation, things are not looking good as Iranian officials have been issuing ‘thoughts and prayers’ statements amid reports that severe fog and bad weather have prevented a proper aerial search for the downed helicopter of President Raisi and those with him. Deep uncertainty looms as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was reported as holding an emergency meeting with the National Security Council in Tehran (follow-up reports from state sources have downplayed or contracted this, however). The Iranian population is on edge as speculation grows that the president is feared dead:

“Nobody knows what exactly has happened and how the president and other local officials, because the situation is quite complicated,” he told Al Jazeera.

“As time goes on, hopes are decreasing because the conditions are getting much worse and it’s getting darker,” Aslani, a senior research fellow at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies, noted.

“What is being felt here in Tehran [Iran’s capital] is mostly that feeling of uncertainty.”

At this moment, the president and his foreign minister, along with other officials are officially missing. Iran has mobilized the armed forces, including the IRGC, amid unconfirmed reports that even some of the search and rescue units are also possibly missing…

Initial footage from the far northern border region with Azerbaijan shows fog so thick that it’s hard to see just dozens of meters ahead.

One independent regional monitor has said: “This is hardly a surprise. First responders and rescue crews are being dispatched en-masse without proper briefing/delegation of command.”

More footage showing a difficult terrain and weather situation. Visibility at a distance is near zero…

Speculation that Raisi could be dead has begun to hit foreign media, including in Israel:

Iran official: Lives of president, FM ‘at risk’ after crash landing in wooded area

There has also been speculation of possible foreign interference as the search and rescue extends into hours, involving a massive military and security response, with drones and other deployed assets over the region…


“Today, after a friendly meeting with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, the news of the emergency landing of the helicopter carrying the Iranian high delegation caused great concern. Our prayers to Almighty God are with President Ebrahim Raisi and his accompanying delegation. As a neighbor, friend and brother country, the Republic of Azerbaijan is ready to provide all kinds of support.”

The official Instagram of the Iranian president is calling on all citizens to pray for his safety.

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There are breaking reports that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been in a helicopter crash in a remote northern area of the country and that rescuers are trying to reach him and his crew. 

State media is currently calling it a “hard landing” – suggesting that the president is alive and well, however no other details on the precise nature of the helicopter incident have been revealed. According to the NYT, 16 rescue teams have been dispatched to locate the helicopter, however inclement weather are hampering the effort, according to the reports. The teams have failed to locate the crash after nearly five hours. According to the latest via Al Jazeera citing state media:

  • Adverse weather conditions, including heavy fog, are hampering rescue efforts and the helicopter is still missing.
  • Iran’s Fars News Agency calls on Iranians to pray for President Raisi.

What is known is that Raisi’s helicopter went down while in the country’s East Azerbaijan province and that it happened near the border city of Jolfa, and up to three helicopters total made up the air convoy at the time.

“Given the complexities of the region, connection has been difficult, and we are hoping that the rescue teams reach the helicopter and can give us more information,” said Iran’s interior minister, Ahmad Vahidi on state television.

State-run IRNA news agency indicated that among the officials aboard the aircraft included Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

The Associated Press has quoted at least one Iranian official to say it was a “crash” and that there’s an urgent rescue mission currently underway in a forested area:

One local government official used the word “crash” to describe the incident, but he acknowledged to an Iranian newspaper that he had yet to reach the site himself.

Rescuers were attempting to reach the site, state TV said, but had been hampered by poor weather conditions. There had been heavy rain and fog reported with some wind. IRNA called the area a “forest.”

It appears Raisi was traveling in connection with a trip to Azerbaijan earlier in the day, where he had overseen the inauguration of a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev this morning. Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency has stated on X Sunday:

“Some of the president’s companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties.”

Thus far initial reports indicate that Raisi has survived the incident, but again the ‘hard landing’ appears to be significant – and possibly far worse – than what state media is letting on.

The fact that a rescue team has yet to even reach the location of the downed helicopter means this could be a potential casualty situation involving top officials.

Almost immediately, a number of online commenters raised the question of potential foreign involvement… “Israel?” some asked. However, it’s also well understood that helicopters become more prone to incidents in foggy or inclement weather, and over mountainous difficult terrain. Iran’s aviation industry has also long languished under Washington-led sanctions.



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