Iranian official says expectations low for Raisi's survival as rescue teams reach crash site

Iranian official says expectations low for Raisi's survival as rescue teams reach crash site
The officials comments come as rescue teams reached the site of the helicopter crash 12 hours after it initially crashed.
4 min read
In this handout image supplied by the Office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi visits the site of a project over the Aras River, following a meeting with Azerbaijani President [GETTY]

An Iranian official has told Reuters that the expectations are low for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to be alive after the helicopter crash. The comments come after rescue teams reached the crash site.

It comes after a 12 hour search and following the identification of the crash site by a Turkish drone that was carrying Raisi.

According to the Iranian Red Crescent, 73 rescue teams have been dispatched to the area with detector dogs.

Reports had stated that signals has been received from the crash site where the helicopter suffered a "hard landing".

According to Tasnim News Agency, Iran's semi-official news agency linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the armed forces have received a signal from the helicopter and mobile phone of one of the crew members at the site.

Commander of the IRGC in Eastern Azerbaijan Asghar Abbasgholizadeh told the agency that "a signal was received a few minutes ago from the helicopter and mobile phone of one of the crew members at the accident site."

He added that forces were moving towards the area.

The news comes after Iranian state media reported on Sunday that a helicopter carrying the president suffered a "hard landing".

One of the helicopters in a convoy carrying Iran's president had a rough landing, the country's interior minister, Ahmed Vahidi, confirmed to state TV, adding that rescue teams are being hampered by difficult weather conditions. 

The interior minister said that rescue teams were on their way to the scene but encountering delays due to "difficult weather conditions".

Raisi was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. State TV said the incident happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Traveling with Raisi were Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province and other officials, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

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.

Neither IRNA nor state TV offered any information on Raisi’s condition.

"The esteemed president and company were on their way back aboard some helicopters and one of the helicopters was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in comments aired on state TV. "Various rescue teams are on their way to the region but because of the poor weather and fogginess it might take time for them to reach the helicopter."

He added: "The region is a bit (rugged) and it’s difficult to make contact. We are waiting for rescue teams to reach the landing site and give us more information."

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" and the region is known to be mountainous as well.

Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River. The visit came despite chilly relations between the two nations, including over a gun attack on Azerbaijan's Embassy in Tehran in 2023, and Azerbaijan's diplomatic relations with Israel, which Iran's Shiite theocracy views as its main enemy in the region.

Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.

Raisi won Iran's 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Raisi is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen's Houthi rebels and Lebanon's Hezbollah.