Sebastián Piñera
The former Chilean President AFP

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera died on Tuesday after the helicopter he was traveling in fell into a lake, the government confirmed.

Local media reported that four people were traveling in the aircraft when it crashed in Lago Ranco, Los Ríos region. Piñera was among them.

The helicopter took off during a rainy and foggy day, which affected visibility. It crashed after a few minutes in the air.

According to Bío Bío Chile, three of the four occupants were able to get out of the helicopter, but the fourth one couldn't unbuckle his seatbelt. Rescue teams have been sent to the area, located in southern Chile.

"We want to express our shock for this tragedy, send a hug and our solidarity to his family and also all Chileans because Piñera was a democratic president on two occasions. He will have all the honors he deserves. He ruled us and we will remember him because he devoted his life to public service. "President Boric instructed he be given a state funeral and to declare a state of mourning." said the country's Interior Minister Carolina Tohá.

The accident reportedly took place minutes before 3 PM, local time. "A phone call informed that an aircraft fell in Lago Ranco, seemingly a helicopter. Carabineros (police) and the Navy are on their way to the scene."

Piñera was 74 years old. He led the country during two non-consecutive terms, the first one from 2010 to 2014 and the second one between 2018 and 2022.

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou expressed his condolences on X (formerly Twitter). "I met President Piñera years ago. He always had a positive attitude towards Uruguay and at a personal level. An example is his logistical support to help vaccines arrive in the country during the pandemic. My condolences to the Chileans and his family. RIP," reads his message.

The Argentine government also published a message, saying it "laments the tragic passing of Sebastián Piñera, who was President of the Chilean Republic during the 2010-2014 and 2018-2022."

Infobae reported that Piñera was the one piloting the helicopter. His sister Magdalena, businessman Ignacio Guerrero and his son were aboard too. They were able to swim to the lake shore after the crash.

The survivors were taken to the house of businessman José Cox, from where they had departed. Search and rescue teams were able to recover Piñera's body, the outlet reported.

Considered to be center-right in the political spectrum, he was thecountry's head of state during its "Estallido social" (Social blowup), a massive series of protests against inequality in the country. Catalyzed by an increase in Santiago de Chile's transportation fares, it turned into a country-wide movement that led then-President Piñera to declare a state of emergency.

As protests grew in intensity, so did violence on the streets, especially from law enforcement (Carabineros), who were accused of injuring more than 10,000 protesters and purposefully aiming at their eyes, with almost 350 related wounds.

Tensions subsided after the Piñera administration announced a series of pensions, health and salary reforms, as well as a broad agreement between government and Congress to call for a national referendum on constitutional reform. His approval rate plummeted to 6%, the lowest for a Chilean president.

However, his presidencies also saw bright moments, such as the rebuilding after the massive earthquake that shook the country in 2010 and the two-month-long rescue of the 33 miners trapped in the San José mine.

At a personal level, Piñera was one of the richest people in Chile, with assets worth $2.7 billion in 2017, according to Forbes.

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