Chile was sent into mourning following the death of former President Sebastián Piñera, who lost his life in a helicopter crash at the age of 74.
In a statement, Chile’s Interior Minister Carolina Tohá confirmed the death of the former president on Tuesday, February 6,2024.
She further said that the Chilean Navy had already recovered the ex-president’s body from the lake, near a town located in the Southern part of the country.
“We remember him for the way he dedicated his life to public service,” said Carolina. The interior minister did not however provide further details about the cause of the accident.
The death of the former head of state attracted outpouring condolences from within the country and from across the world.
Piñera was a towering figure in country’s politics and a renowned billionaire businessman.
The nation has since declared a period of national mourning as tributes pour in from across the political spectrum in Latin America.
President Gabriel Boric declared the three days of national mourning, while preparations have begun for a state funeral on Friday for the former leader.
Last Moments of the Former Chile President
According to reports, the helicopter, which Piñera himself often flew, went down in a lake near the southern town of Lago Ranco.
While three other occupants miraculously survived the crash, the former head of state was the sole casualty.
Although there is no official confirmation that Piñera was flying the aircraft at the time of the accident, his penchant for flying his own helicopter adds a poignant layer to the tragedy.
Piñera, a conservative politician, was widely acclaimed for his role in steering Chile towards rapid economic growth during his first presidential term from 2010 to 2014.
In 2010, Piñera made history by becoming Chile’s first conservative president since the end of military rule in 1990, unseating the country’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet.
His promise to leverage his business expertise for the nation’s economic prosperity resonated with voters, propelling him to victory.
Sebastian, who also served for a second term between 2018 and 2022, led the South American nation during devastating natural disasters, including a tsunami and fallout of an earthquake and a tsunami.
Furthermore, he governed during the coronavirus pandemic and placed Chile among the top five countries with highest vaccination rates.
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Internationally, he garnered widespread recognition for orchestrating the daring rescue of 33 miners trapped beneath the Atacama Desert in 2010, a feat that captured the world’s attention and admiration.
However, his second term in office, which spanned from 2018 to 2022, was marked by tumultuous social unrest, tarnishing his legacy in the eyes of many.
The former head of state’s legacy is marred with social upheaval faced during violent police repression in October 2019 against protesters.
They were demonstrating against the country’s education, health and pension systems.
Despite these challenges, Piñera’s impact on Chilean politics and society cannot be overstated.
Born in 1949, his journey to the presidency was shaped by his illustrious career as a Harvard-trained economist and a shrewd businessman.
He amassed his fortune in the 1980s, pioneering the introduction of credit cards in Chile through his company Bancard.
His business acumen extended to investments in Chile’s largest airline, Lan Chile, its premier football club Colo Colo, and even a television channel.
The former head of state has left behind his wife Cecilia Morel and four children.