Ukrainian passenger plane crashes near Tehran, killing all on board

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A Ukrainian Boeing 737 has crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all passengers and crew on board. Iranian media reported the crash was due to technical issues.

A Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed on Wednesday shortly after take-off from Imam Khomeini airport, Tehran’s main international airport, killing all 176 on board, Iran’s state television has said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry confirmed there were no survivors among the 167 passengers and nine crew members bound for Kyiv’s Boryspil airport. Most of the passengers were nationals of Iran, Canada and several European countries, including Germany and the UK. All crew members were Ukrainian.

What we know

It was not immediately clear what caused the Boeing 737-800 aircraft to crash, but Iranian news agency Fars reported it was suspected to have been caused by technical issues, as did Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Iran’s civil aviation spokesperson Reza Jafarzadeh said that an investigation team was present at the site of the crash close to the airport in the southwestern peripheries of Tehran.

“After taking off from Imam Khomeini international airport it crashed between Parand and Shahriar,” Jafarzadeh said. “An investigation team from the national aviation department was dispatched to the location after the news was announced.”

According to air tracking service FlightRadar24, flight data from Imam Khomeini International Airport showed that a Ukrainian 737-800 aircraft flown by Ukraine International Airlines took off Wednesday morning, then stopped sending data almost immediately afterward.

A Boeing Co. spokesperson told the Associated Press the company was “aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”

The crash came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting two bases in Iraq hosting US forces in retaliation for the US killing of a top Iranian commander.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a post on Facebook cautioned against speculating on the cause of the crash.

“I ask everyone to refrain from speculating and putting forth unconfirmed theories about the crash,” he wrote.

Ukraine’s embassy in Iran said preliminary information suggested an engine failure was the cause of the crash, adding that it was not “terrorism,” Reuters reported.

Condolences for the victims

Ukraine’s foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko released the nationalities of those killed in the crash and include 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, two passengers and all nine crew members were from Ukraine.A further 10 passengers were Swedish, four were from Afghanistan, three from Germany and three from the UK.

President Zelenskiy has expressed “sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of all passengers and crew” and has cut short a visit to Oman following the incident.

Boeing record in spotlight

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft have been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years. In March 2016, a Flydubai 737-800 from Dubai crashed while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia. Sixty-two people aboard lost their lives.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, however, praised the aircraft’s “excellent safety record” adding that it was “the most reliable airplane in commercial operation today” with over 7,000 such aircraft in operation around the world.

The crash was Ukraine International Airlines’ first fatal incident and that the airline was “highly respected” said Thomas, speaking to Deutsche Welle.

The Boeing 737-800 is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for almost 10 months following two crashes, one in Ethiopia and the other in Indonesia.

FlightRadar24 said the Ukrainian flight on Wednesday was not operated by a Boeing 737 MAX.

Iran has suffered a series of fatal air accidents in recent years. Decades of international sanctions imposed on the country has taken a toll on its commercial passenger aircraft fleet.

This is a breaking news story. We are updating this article as information comes in.

kmm, mvb/se (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

DW

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