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

Ebrahim Raisi's Chief Of Staff Gholam Hossein Esmaili.

Ebrahim Raisi's Chief Of Staff Gholam Hossein Esmaili.

Gholam Hossein Esmaili, who was on the third helicopter in the president's convoy, details the moments before Ebrahim Raisi's chopper disappeared from view. 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 HosseinEsmaili, narrated what he witnessed in the moments before the helicopter incident that took the lives of the 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 of being in the air, prior to reaching the Sungun copper mine, there was a small patch of clouds

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 at the same height as our flight’s height.

It was there that the now-martyred helicopter pilot, who was also the commander of the fleet, told the rest of the pilots to ascend above the clouds. We were third behind the president’s helicopter. We rose above the clouds and advanced for approximately 30 seconds. Our pilot suddenly realized that the main helicopter carrying the president was missing. 

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.

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 realized, however, that our pilot was making a U-turn suddenly, so I asked him why. He said that one of our helicopters was 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 few times, but the area with the cloud patch was also invisible to us, and it was too risky to enter. We failed several times to make any radio contact. We were forced to land after 30 seconds at the Sungun copper mine to investigate.

During the flight, we had continuous 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 up the phone. It was Ayatollah Hashem, the Friday Imam of Tabriz. He told us that he was not feeling well. He didn’t tell us anything special. I asked him what exactly had happened. He told us that he didn’t know what had happened, and when asked about his whereabouts, he said that he didn’t know. He only described what he could see, described to us what he saw, for example, how he was 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 search for them. We also requested immediate emergency help._The Cradle

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