Sebastian Piñera: Former Chilean president dies in helicopter crash

  • Ioan Wells in Sao Paulo and Patrick Jackson in London
  • BBC News

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WATCH: President Piñera embraces Florencio Avalos, the first of the Chilean miners rescued in 2010.

Former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera, a two-term billionaire businessman, has died in a helicopter crash at the age of 74.

Three others survived when the plane crashed into a lake near the southern city of Lago Ranco.

Piñera flew his own helicopter, but there is no official confirmation that he was the pilot at the time of the crash.

National mourning was declared and tributes were paid across Latin America's political divide.

The conservative politician achieved rapid economic growth during his first term in office from 2010 to 2014.

However, his second term, from 2018 to last year, was marred by violent social unrest.

Announcing three days of mourning and a state funeral, his leftist successor as president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, paid tribute to Piñera.

“We are all Chile, we have to dream it, draw it and build it together,” he said. “Sebastian Piñera said this when he assumed his second term as president on 11 March 2018. We send a big hug to his family and loved ones in these difficult times.”

Brazil's leftist President Luiz Inacio 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 conversation when we were both presidents and when we weren't.” He wrote in X.

Argentina's former conservative president Mauricio Macri said Piñera's death was an “irreparable loss” and felt “great sadness”, while Colombia's former conservative president Ivan Duque said he was deeply saddened by his friend's death.

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At a campaign event in Santiago in 2006

In 2010, Piñera became Chile's first conservative president since the end of military rule in 1990.

The Harvard-trained economist replaced Michelle Bachelet, the country's first female president, promising to turn her business acumen to the country's economic growth.

Born in 1949, he became one of Chile's richest men, making his fortune in the 1980s by introducing credit cards to Chile through his Bancard company.

He also invested in Chile's largest mainstream airline, Lan Chile, the country's top soccer club, Colo Colo, and a television channel.

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