Crash kills 176 on Ukrainian plane from Tehran: Iran denies blame, refuses to release black box; fuselage peppered with holes

( Note; The number of deaths has been updated to 176)

More than 176 people aboard a Ukrainian airplane taking off from Iran were killed when it crashed shortly after takeoff.

While technical difficulties and an engine fire were being blamed for the crash in initial reports by Iranian state television, Iranians have reportedly refused to give the plane’s black boxes over to Boeing or any of the countries involved in the investigation, fueling questions as Ukraine’s embassy seemed to wipe out its original remarks, Reuters reported.

(Video: CNN)

There were no survivors from the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet which was headed to the Ukrainian capital Kiev after it took off from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday morning carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office confirmed the news and Iranian state-run IRNA news agency reported that after taking off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport, the plane carrying people from many different nations, crashed into farmland outside of the capital city.

(Video: Associated Press)

Though the crash came just hours after more than a dozen ballistic missiles were launched by Iran on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, both Ukrainian and Iranian officials initially claimed technical problems brought down the Ukraine International Airlines flight.

“According to preliminary data the plane crashed due to engine failure for technical reasons. As of now versions of terrorist attack or missile attack are ruled out,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran said in a statement but subsequently deleted it.

“Information on the causes of the plane crash is being clarified by the commission,” the new statement said.

There are still unanswered questions, and the fact that the crew had not reported an emergency, as well as Iran’s refusal to turn over the flight’s black boxes yet, have fueled speculation that it was not an engine failure or fire that caused the demise of the plane, as Iranian officials had claimed. Images from the crash site also appeared to show the plane’s fuselage peppered with holes, according to Daily Mail.

Sky News was reporting that Zelensky had “instructed prosecutors to open criminal proceedings” following the crash.

Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko tweeted on the national origins of those aboard the flight.

A video posted by the Iranian Student News Agency claimed to show the plane, already on fire as it came down.

“I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere,” Din Mohammad Qassemi, a resident in the area of the crash site, told The Associated Press. “At first I thought (the Americans) have hit here with missiles and went in the basement as a shelter. After a while, I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there. Body parts were lying around everywhere.”

One of the plane’s engines allegedly caught fire, causing a loss of control of the aircraft, according to Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry. The head of the air crash investigation committee, Hassan Razaeifar, also indicated that in the flight’s last moments, the pilot was unable to communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran.

“It is impossible that there were mistakes by the crew,” the president of Ukraine International Airlines, Yevhenii Dykhne, said, adding that Tehran airport is “not a simple airport,” according to CNN.

A Ukrainian airline official confirmed that the plane was only a few years old and had been checked just two days before the flight. The plane’s takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran was reportedly delayed by almost an hour.

Zelensky, who cut short his trip to Oman, offered his condolences on his official Facebook page.

“According to preliminary information, all passengers and crew members had died,” he wrote. “Our embassy is working to clarify information on the circumstances of the tragedy and the list of deceased passengers. My sincere condolences to families and loved ones of all passengers and crew members.”

“We’re preparing a group of specialists in order to help with the search operation and the investigation of the cause of the crash,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said in a statement posted on Facebook.


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