Iranian president experiences 'hard landing' in helicopter: Iranian media

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi experienced a "hard landing" on Sunday, according to Iranian state media.

Iranian media, according to multiple reports, said rescue teams were dispatched to the site in the Dizmar forest between the cities of Varzaqan and Jolfa in Iran's East Azerbaijan province, near its border with Azerbaijan. 

The circumstances of incident remain unclear as Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi initially said the helicopter "was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog."

Search teams later told Iranian state TV that officials have found the helicopter and made contact with one passenger and one crew member, though that could not be confirmed. 

Iranian officials have said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations. The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said 40 search teams were on the ground in the area despite "challenging weather conditions." 

The search is being done by teams on the ground, as "the weather conditions have made it impossible to conduct aerial searches" via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province near the city of Jolfa at the time of the incident. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and the governor of the East Azerbaijan province were traveling with the president, along with other officials.

"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," he continued.

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.

Countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar have made formal statements of concern about Raisi's fate and offered to assist in the search operations.

Saudi Arabia, which is traditionally a rival of Iran, although the two countries have recently made a rapprochement, also expressed concern in a statement and said it "stands by Iran in these difficult circumstances."

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 fragile relations between the two countries, 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.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently since subsided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates on this story on