Amid Iran missile strikes, Ukraine plane crashes outside Tehran, killing 176 aboard

Shahedshahr: A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday, just minutes after beginning from the Iranian capital’s main airport, turning farmland on the outskirts of Tehran into fields of flaming debris and killing all on board.

The crash of Ukraine International Airlines came hours after Iran launched a missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but both Ukrainian and Iranian officials initially said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

However, Ukraine International Airlines said during a statement that the plane was three years old, and had undergone its last planned technical maintenance on Epiphany , 2020. Its officials also expressed confidence within the crew.

The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from different nations. Ukraine’s secretary of state , Vadym Prystaiko, said there have been 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board–the Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and therefore the nine crew. there have been also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals, he said.

Airline officials said most of the passengers were on the way to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, transiting through there to other destinations. Staff at the Boryspil airport in Kyiv, told AP that passengers on this flight are usually Iranian students returning to Ukraine after the winter holidays.

The plane had been delayed from beginning from Imam Khomeini International Airport by almost an hour. It took off to the west, but never made it above 8,000 feet within the air, consistent with data from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.

It remains unclear what happened. Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared that a fireplace struck one among its engines. The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing, Biniaz said, consistent with the state-run IRNA press agency .

Hassan Razaeifar, the top of the air crash investigation committee, said it appeared the pilot couldn’t communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran within the last moments of the flight. He didn’t elaborate. Authorities later said they found the plane’s so-called “black boxes,” which record cockpit conversations and instrument data.

The plane, fully loaded with fuel for its 2,300-km flight, slammed into farmland near the town of Shahedshahr on the outskirts of Tehran. Videos taken immediately after the crash show blazes lighting up the darkened fields before dawn.

Resident Din Mohammad Qassemi said he had been watching the news about the Iranian missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani when he heard the crash.

“I heard a huge explosion and every one the homes began to shake. There was fire everywhere,” he told the AP. “At first i assumed (the Americans) have hit here with missiles and went within the basement as a shelter. After a short time , I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there. Body parts were lying around everywhere.”

AP journalists who reached the crash site saw a good field of debris scattered across farmland, the dead lying among shattered pieces of the aircraft. Their possessions, a child’s cartoon-covered toothbrush , a stuffed animal, luggage and electronics, stretched everywhere.

Rescuers in masks shouted over the noise of hovering helicopters as they worked. They quickly realized there would be no survivors.

“The only thing that the pilot managed to try to to was steer the plane towards a soccer field near here rather than a residential district back there,” witness Aref Geravand said. “It crashed near the sector and during a water canal.”(FA9NEWS)

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