Best of AP — First Winner


Tehran bureau and Jon Gambrell make AP first with helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president

People pray for President Ebrahim Raisi in a ceremony at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sunday, May 19, 2024. AP PHOTO / VAHID SALEMI

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When Iran state television announced a “hard landing” of an aircraft, Gulf News Director Jon Gambrell and members of the Tehran bureau had already picked up rumors of a crash of the helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi. They knew this was no ordinary “hard landing”  it was far more significant.

Not only did the Tehran team — correspondents Nasser Karimi and Amir Vahdat, photographer Vahid Salemi, producer Mehdi Fattahi and cameraman Mohsen Ganji — and Gambrell break the news that President Ebrahim Raisi was on board, they worked on several fronts to provide context and background to Raisi’s political significance and the current situation in Iran. Raisi’s obit prep was quickly updated and we moved a thumbnail profile of him.

Soon after came a ‘What We Know,’ a video explainer by Gambrell, and a glance on Iran’s foreign entanglements. The Tehran team sourced several video upticks of the search for the helicopter in foggy conditions and footage of Raisi hours earlier opening a dam. The team also produced a self-shot package of people praying for the president in Tehran. AP had a depth of all formats coverage that competition could not match.

After just a few hours of rest, Gambrell, Karimi, Vahdat, Salemi, Fattahi and Ganji were up before dawn in Iran.

Gambrell sourced information gathered by drones sent by neighboring Turkey that gave GPS coordinates of a source of heat in the remote, forested mountain area that was identified as the possible site of the helicopter crash. Nerve Center global news manager Bobby Calvan worked with interactives to get a map showing that spot and its location in Iran and the region, while Deputy Director of Global Text Patrick Quinn got a live blog and latest in motion to report the fast-developing events.

All along, the team aggressively sent APNewsAlerts, keeping us far ahead of the competition at every turn, including the first urgent which was more than 45 minutes ahead of Reuters.

AP’s consistent speed and accuracy with the developments of the story and the depth of coverage in text, photos and video resulted in our stories getting top spots on search pages including Google and Google News.

For being first on a major breaking news story and consistent speedy reporting as the story developed in subsequent hours, Karimi, Vahdat, Salemi, Fattahi, Ganji and Gambrell win Best of AP — First Winner

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