The last Polish head of state to die in office, Wladyslaw Sikorski, also died in a plane crash.
Lech Kaczynski wasn’t the first Polish president to lose his life in a plane crash. In 1943, the then president of Poland Wladyslaw Sikorski died after his plane crashed after take off from Gibraltar. In fact, air travel has a way of claiming the rich, famous and powerful. Before low cost carriers, they were the only ones who could afford and use it frequently, thereby increasing their probability of becoming an accident statistic.
The recent example in India is Rajashekhar Reddy, former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, whose helicopter crashed last September. Reddy’s governance was lauded for countering Naxalites and pro-poor development, but we really don’t know if Indian history would have been different were he alive.
When Sanjay Gandhi decided to take off on a ride in 1980, his mother Indira Gandhi had just returned to power, wiser after the Emergency. Sanjay, always the heir apparent, could have gone on to be PM instead of Rajiv Gandhi. To illustrate their different styles, Maruti is Sanjay’s legacy and the IT revolution Rajiv’s. Would India then have been a manufacturing instead of services hub?
Pakistan could have had a different trajectory if Zia ul Haq’s plane had not mysteriously exploded into flames in 1988. It returned token democracy to that country, but then experiments with dictatorship have continued.
The website planecrashinfo.com has a decade by decade list of famous people killed in crashes. Lech Kaczynski is its first entry for the 2010s. In the over 50 names for the decade starting 2000, there is south Indian actress Soundarya and cricketer Hansie Cronje.
But there’s one of particular interest in today’s post 9/11 times—Muhammad bin Laden. The father of one Osama bin Laden, on 3 September 1967, he ‘took off for the landing strip near Usran [Saudi Arabia] which had been cut out of the rough terrain by his workers so that he could land and inspect the work in progress. He crashed trying to land on the mountain strip. 2 killed.’