DFormer Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (74) died in a helicopter crash on Tuesday. The accident happened in the popular resort of Lago Ranco, 920 kilometers south of the capital Santiago de Chile, his office said. “It is with great regret that we announce the death of the former president of the Republic of Chile,” the statement said.

Newspapers “La Nacion” and “La Tercera” initially reported the accident, citing diplomatic circles. Accordingly, the former head of government was said to be sitting at the controls of the helicopter he often travels with. As Chile's Interior Minister Carolina Toha explained at a press conference, the helicopter fell into a lake in the Los Lagos area. Three people were injured in the accident, but managed to swim ashore. Piñera, on the other hand, was trapped in the wreckage. Rescue workers later found his body.

Piñera leaves behind his wife, Cecilia Morel, and four children.

The first right-wing president since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship

Toha declares a national period of mourning. Therefore, Piñera should be given “all the honors and republican accolades” “he deserves.” Current Chilean President Gabriel Boric ordered a state funeral.

A supporter of the late president lays flowers at his home in Santiago.

A supporter of the late president lays flowers at his home in Santiago.

Image: dpa

The conservative politician and billionaire led Chile for two terms from 2010 to 2014 and from 2018 to 2022. Born in Santiago in 1949, he studied economics at Harvard, among others, but then returned to his homeland to teach at the university. In the 1980s, he founded a credit card company and became a shareholder in LAN Airlines (now LATAM Airlines) and private television in Chile. Before the 2010 election, he sold the shares.

Piñera made a name for himself politically in the late 1980s when he publicly opposed the form of government of then-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Through him, the right wing of the country oriented itself away from authoritarianism and towards a more economically liberal attitude. Piñera later became the first right-wing president of the South American country since the end of Pinochet's dictatorship in 1990.