Chilean ex-President and billionaire businessman, Sebastián Piñera, has died in a helicopter crash at the age of 74.
The helicopter carrying Pinera, 74, and three others plunged into a lake in southern Chile on Tuesday, February 6.
The former president was pronounced dead shortly after rescue personnel arrived at the scene. The other three passengers survived.
Two sources told Reuters Pinera was the pilot, although officials have not confirmed that, nor the helicopter’s intended destination.
President Gabriel Boric declared three days of national mourning, while preparations have begun for a state funeral on Friday for the former leader, who served two non-consecutive terms between 2010 and 2022.
Interior Minister Carolina Toha said the ex-president’s body had been recovered from the lake, near the town of Lago Ranco.
“We remember him for the way he dedicated his life to public service,” said Toha, who has been helping to lead efforts to battle deadly wildfires in recent days.
Announcing three days of mourning and a state funeral, his leftist successor as Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, paid a warm tribute to Piñera.
“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.”
Brazil’s leftist President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said he was “surprised and saddened” by Piñera’s death.
“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,” he wrote on X.
Argentina’s former conservative President Mauricio Macri said Piñera’s death was an “irreplaceable loss” and he felt “immense sadness” while Iván Duque, the former conservative president of Colombia, said he felt great sadness over the death of his friend.
In Chile, he was known as a successful businessman whose first term was boosted by rapid economic growth.
Pinera was also known abroad for his role overseeing the spectacular rescue in 2010 of 33 miners who were trapped underneath the Atacama desert. The event became a global media sensation and was the subject of a 2014 movie, “The 33.”