Deadly plane crash over Iran
DUBAI/KIEV – A Ukrainian airliner crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, bursting into flames and killing all 176 people on board.
Debris and smouldering engine parts from the Boeing 737, which carrier Ukraine International Airlines said was last serviced two days ago, were strewn across a field southwest of the Iranian capital where rescue workers in face masks laid out scores of body bags.
Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, three Germans and three Britons, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.
The plane crashed hours after Iran launched missiles at bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq, and officials cautioned that speculation about what happened was premature.
It was the Kiev-based carrier’s first fatal crash, and it said it was doing everything possible to establish the cause.
Ukraine will send a team of experts to Iran later on Wednesday to investigate the crash, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in the Ukrainian capital.
“Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “shocked and saddened” and added: “Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”
A passenger list here from the airline shows that members of the same family were killed, that children were on board and that many passengers were under 35.
Faisal Moola, a professor at Canada’s University of Guelph, in Ontario, said Ghanimat Azhdari, one of his students, was one of the victims.
“Her PhD research was devoted to advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples in conservation and protection of biocultural knowledge,” he wrote on Twitter.
Under international rules, responsibility for investigating the crash lies with Iran, and Iranian state television said both of the plane’s black box voice and data recorders had been found.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted the head of Iran’s civil aviation organisation as saying it was not clear which country Iran would send the black boxes to for analysis of the data, but it would not give them to Boeing.
An amateur video, run by Iranian news agencies and purportedly of the crashing plane, showed a flash in a dark sky descending. It was accompanied by comments that the aircraft was “on fire” and then a brighter flash as it appears to hit the ground. Reuters could not authenticate the footage.
Asked at a briefing in Kiev whether the plane could have been hit by a missile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk cautioned against speculation until the results of the investigation were known.
Iran had earlier fired missiles at the bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike last week that killed an Iranian military commander.
Some airlines cancelled Iran and Iraq flights and re-routed others away from both countries’ airspace following the missile strikes.
Safety experts say airliner accidents rarely have a single cause and that it typically takes months of investigation to understand all the factors behind them.
In Paris, the maker of the plane’s engines, French-U.S. firm CFM – co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran – said speculation regarding the cause was premature.
Iranian TV put the crash down to unspecified technical problems, and Iranian media quoted a local aviation official as saying the pilot did not declare an emergency. (Reuters)