Old Plane Wreckage Photo Misidentified as Site of Iranian President’s Fatal Crash

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A photo of a school plane that crashed in 2020 has resurfaced in several web articles and social media posts, falsely presented as the wreckage from the helicopter crash that killed the Iranian president on May 19, 2024.

Photo: EPA-EFE/Iranian state TV (IRIB)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and other officials died in a helicopter crash on May 19 in East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. The country declared five days of mourning, and the president’s funeral took place on May 22 in Tehran.

The helicopter crash and the subsequent funeral drew worldwide media attention. Bosnian and Herzegovinian media also covered the incident extensively. On May 20, 2024, the RTRS web portal published an article with a photo that allegedly depicted the wreckage from the crash. The article was titled: ‘First Footage Released from the Crash Site of the Helicopter Carrying the Iranian President.’

Photo: RTRS/Screenshot

Some web portals claimed their photo was the first published after the accident (12), while others used it to report on the incident (123456). The photo also circulated on social networks (12). Given that several outlets published the photo with these claims almost simultaneously, it’s impossible to determine which publication was actually the first to do so.

What Are the Facts?

The photo depicting aircraft wreckage in a forest was also featured on foreign web portals, which claimed it showed the remains of the helicopter in which the Iranian president died (12). These claims were subsequently addressed by India Today and Reuters.

In an article published on May 20, 2024, India Today clarified that the photo, which is four years old, shows the remains of a school plane that crashed near Salman Shahr, Iran. The following day, Reuters reported that photos of this wreckage had appeared on the Mizan agency and the Jamaran News web portal. Additionally, the Iranian news agency IRNA had published two articles in April 2020 related to the school plane crash (12).

On May 20, 2024, Reuters published photos of the crash site, and footage of helicopter wrecks from an aerial perspective appeared in numerous global media outlets (12). The video captures the remains of a blue helicopter. However, the photo inaccurately claimed to show the site of the Iranian president’s death actually depicts the remains of a white plane.

Photo: Remains of the helicopter in which the Iranian president was killed / Screenshot

On May 20, 2024, the Montenegro-based fact-checking website Raskrinkavanje addressed incorrect claims surrounding a four-year-old photo of an accident.

Given the uncertainty about who first published the photo of the plane wreckage with the false claim that it depicts the site of the Iranian president’s death, we classify all the analyzed posts as instances of fake news distribution.

(Author: Irna Halilović, Raskrinkavaje.ba)