Former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera dies in helicopter crash

 February 7, 2024

Sebastian Pinera, the former president of Chile, has died in a helicopter crash. He was 74.

The wealthy businessman was one of the richest people in Chile and served as its president from 2010 to 2014 and again from 2018 to 2022.

Pinera was piloting his private helicopter near a lake resort when he lost control and crashed into the water, for reasons that remain unclear, BBC reported.

Three survivors

The Chilean navy recovered Pinera's body, and it was confirmed that he died of drowning.

His sister Magdelana, his friend and his friend's son jumped from the helicopter and survived.

Magdalena called her brother "a great man, a generous and courageous man."

President had two eventful terms

In 2010, Pinera became the first conservative president of Chile since the end of Augusto Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship, which was followed by two decades of uninterrupted rule by the left.

Born in Chile's capital Santiago, Pinera was trained in economics at Harvard and later made his fortune introducing credit cards to Chile with his company Bancard.

Pinera's two terms as president were eventful and marked by moments of intense national strife as well as solidarity.

In 2010, he helped orchestrate the rescue of 33 Chilean miners who miraculously survived 69 days underground. The event captivated the world and brought Chileans together.

Pinera's second term was tumultuous, as Chile was rocked by riots and protests over the cost of living.

Pinera resisted calls to step down, but the unrest led to a national referendum to adopt a new constitution. Chileans have since rejected two proposed constitutions - one left-wing, the other conservative.

Death rocks Latin America

Despite deep divisions in the country, political leaders from across the aisle have joined together in mourning Pinera.

The country's socialist president, Gabriel Boric, announced a three-day period of mourning.

"We are all Chile and we should dream it, draw it and build it together," he said. "Sebastián Piñera said this when he assumed his second presidential term on 11 March 2018. We send a big hug to his family and loved ones in these hard times."

The libertarian president of neighboring Argentina, Javier Milei, said, "On behalf of the state of Argentina, we send our condolences to the family, friends, and people of Chile."

Brazil's left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote, "We got along, we worked to strengthen the relationship between our countries and we always had a good dialogue, when we were both presidents, and also when we weren't."

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