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Netanyahu blasts ICC warrant request while Iran holds funeral ceremonies for president: Live updates

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Netanyahu blasts ICC warrant request while Iran holds ******** ceremonies for president: Live updates

11:44 p.m. ET, May 21, 2024

Iran’s presidential chief of staff reveals new details of moments after helicopter ******

A rescue team works following the ****** of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in Varzaqan, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, on May 20.

West Asia News Agency/Reuters

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

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

The helicopter carrying nine people ran into inclement weather on the way back and went missing, prompting an hours-long overnight search in the mountainous region.

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

He said the weather conditions in the mountainous region in Varzeghan — where the ****** happened — were perfect at the start of the flight. 

“After 45 minutes into the flight, the pilot of President Raisi’s helicopter, who was in charge of the convoy, ordered other helicopters to increase altitude to avoid a nearby cloud,” Esmaili said. 
“However, the president’s helicopter, which was flying between the two others, suddenly disappeared,” Esmaili added, as cited by Mher news.

Roughly 30 seconds into flying above the clouds, Esmaili said his pilot noticed the helicopter in the middle had disappeared. The pilot circled around to search for the president’s helicopter, he said.

Esmaili said several attempts were made to contact the president’s helicopter through radio devices before their helicopter continued its flight and landed at a nearby copper mine. Esmail said the pilot of the helicopter he was flying in was unable to decrease altitude because of the clouds. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and the head of the president’s protection unit, who were in the same chopper as Raisi, did not respond to repeated calls after the helicopter went missing, Esmaili said.

“Pilots of the two other helicopters had contacted Captain Mostafavi, who was in charge of the president’s helicopter,” he said.

One person alive for three hours: Tabriz’s Friday prayer Imam, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Alehashem, was able to answer the pilot’s phone and said the helicopter had crashed into a valley and he was in critical condition, Esmaili added.

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

Alehashem was alive for at least three hours after the ****** and was able to speak to officials multiple times before he *****, Esmaili said.  

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