The former president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, has died in a helicopter crash in Chile. The accident happened on the afternoon of February 6, 2024, and reportedly occurred in poor weather conditions. The accident has led to an outpouring of grief across Chile and condolences being sent from leaders across Latin America and worldwide.
The helicopter, reported to be a Robinson R44, carrying Piñera, 74, and three others plunged into a lake in southern Chile. The former president was pronounced dead shortly after rescue personnel arrived at the scene while the other three passengers onboard the aircraft survived. The Chilean Interior Minister Carolina Toha said the ex-president’s body had been recovered from the lake, near the town of Lago Ranco.
While sources told local media that Piñera himself was flying the helicopter, this has not been confirmed by Chilean officials, nor have any details regarding the helicopter’s intended route or destination. Piñera was well known to often spend the summers in the Southern Hemisphere in the picturesque lakes region of southern Chile. He was also well-known for frequently piloting his own helicopter.
Current Chilean President Gabriel Boric has declared three days of national mourning, while preparations have begun for a state funeral on February 9, 2024, for the former leader, who served two non-consecutive terms between 2010 and 2022.
Pinera was perhaps best known worldwide for taking charge of the dramatic rescue of 33 miners who were trapped underneath the Atacama Desert in 2010. The event became a global media sensation and became the subject of a 2014 movie, ‘The 33’.
In Chile, Piñera was known as a very successful businessman, and references to him were often paired with the term ‘billionaire’. The son of a prominent centrist politician, Piñera was a Harvard-trained economist who made his fortune introducing credit cards to Chile in the 1980s. Piñera was also a major shareholder in the flagship Chilean airline formerly known as LAN, a Chilean soccer team, and a television station. As of 2024, he was ranked 1,176 on Forbes’ global rich list, with a net worth of $2.7 billion.
In 2010, Piñera was involved in another incident involving his R44 helicopter when running low on fuel, he landed it on a rural road in Quilicura Bajo, in the vicinity of Curanipe, about 188 miles (300 km) south de Santiago. Chile. After making a telephone call to ascertain his location and to get fuel, he took off once again.
Piñera is survived by his wife Cecilia Morel and his four children.
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