The former president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in the waters of Lake Ranco, 900 km south of Santiago. Piñera was the only fatality among the four passengers of the aircraft that crashed very close to the shore, where the former president had a summer house.
According to the former president’s office, Piñera had taken the helicopter to participate in a lunch at a friend’s house. Upon returning to his residence in Futrono, together with several family members, the aircraft fell into the lake and sank. The reasons for the crash have not yet been disclosed. While the other three passengers were able to unfasten their seat belts, get out of the helicopter and swim safely to the shore, Piñera, 74 years old, was trapped and sank with the aircraft, losing his life.
Chile decrees national mourning
The Minister of the Interior, Carolina Toha, has announced that the country will decree national mourning and that the deceased ex-president will have a state funeral. The minister also confirmed that the other three passengers, including a sister of the former head of state and her younger daughter, “were able to reach the shore unaided” and are “out of danger”.
The accident took place around 3:00 p.m. local time, for reasons that are still unknown. “It is with deep regret that we announce the death of the former President of the Republic, Sebastian Piñera Echenique. During the afternoon of this Tuesday, February 6, 2024, the former president suffered a plane crash in the region of Los Rios,” reads the communiqué in which it is explained that “information on the funeral will be provided in due course.”
President for two terms
The conservative politician held the presidency of Chile for two terms (2010-2014 and 2018-2022). Since the death of the former Chilean president was confirmed, leaders from all over Latin America have expressed their condolences.
The first was Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou, who wrote on X: “I met President Piñera several years ago. He always had a positive attitude, both towards Uruguay and on a personal level. As an example, it suffices to mention the support he offered with regard to the logistics for the arrival of the vaccines during the pandemic. My condolences to the Chileans and his family.”
The Argentine Government, on behalf of Javier Milei who is on tour in Israel, also issued a statement: “The Office of the President regrets the tragic death of Sebastian Piñera (…) we send our condolences to his family, friends and all the Chilean people.”
Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote on social networks: “Immense sadness for the death of my dear friend Sebastian Piñera. A good person, committed like no one else to Chile and to the values of freedom and democracy in Latin America. It is truly a total loss, irreplaceable. Today I say goodbye to a friend and a remarkable leader. All my love to his family.”
Reactions in Colombia
Ivan Duque, former Colombian president, sent a heartfelt message: “I feel the greatest pain for the death of my great friend and colleague Sebastian Piñera. A unique leader, a human being of integrity and a friend like few others who always supported Colombia. My solidarity with all his family. Dear Sebastián, you will always be in our memory and we will defend your legacy.”
The Colombian government has expressed the following through a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “On behalf of the Republic of Colombia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its deepest condolences for the tragic death of the former president of the Republic of Chile, Sebastian Piñera Echenique,” reads a message on social networks. Subsequently, a new message expresses “sincere condolences to his family and loved ones, as well as to the government of Chile and all the Chilean people.”