Sobbing relatives wait for news of their loved ones after the deadly plane crash in Iran, which killed all 176 on-board.
The Ukraine International Airlines jet came down just six minutes after taking off from Tehran Airport. It had 63 Canadians, 10 Swedes, three Germans and three Brits on-board among the deceased. There were also 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians and four Afghans on-board.
Iranian rescue teams found no survivors at the crash site but were able to retrieve the bodies, Iran’s state-run news agency said.
During the recovery effort, photos have emerged showing the devastating aftermath of the crash and the 40 rescue teams dispatched to the site.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, managing director of crisis management in the Tehran Governor’s Office, Mansour Darajati, said the bodies the rescue teams retrieved were “not in good condition”.
Smouldering parts and debris, including shoes and clothes, were strewn across a field southwest of the Iranian capital, where rescue workers in face masks laid out scores of body bags.
During the recovery, authorities said they found the plane’s so-called black boxes, which record cockpit conversations and instrument data. But it was not immediately clear how much access to the information the Iranians would allow.
‘THE WAS FIRE EVERYWHERE’
Resident Din Mohammad Qassemi said he had been watching the news about the Iranian ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani when he heard the crash.
“I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere,” he 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.”
Officials quickly dismissed fears the crash, which occurred just hours after Iran launched a missile attack on military bases housing American troops in neighbouring Iraq, was related to unrest in the region.
When questioned at a briefing in Kiev, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said there would be no comment on the matter until results of an investigation were known.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered a sweeping inspection of all civil aeroplanes in the country “no matter the conclusions about the crash in Iran”.
“Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe,” he said.
Following the crash, Mr Honcharuk said a group of specialists would be involved in the search operation and the investigation of the cause of the crash.
Iran, however, says it will not hand over the Boeing black box from the plane to Americans.
“We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer (Boeing) and the Americans,” Iran Civil Aviation Organisation head Ali Abedzadeh said, quoted by Mehr news agency.
“It’s not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation.”
Mr Abedzadeh said based on global aviation rules, it was the right of the country where the air crash occurred to carry out the investigation.
MYSTERY AROUND CAUSE OF CRASH
The single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner, which was manned by nine crew members on-board, crashed just hours after Iran launched more than a dozen missiles in an attack on two US military bases in Iraq. However, Iran’s official news agency said the Boeing came down near Tehran airport after experiencing “technical problems”.
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation authority, claimed one of its engines caught fire, causing the pilot to lose control.
But the aircraft was new in 2016 and was last checked just two days ago, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Ukrainian International Airlines dismissed the possibility of technical problems with the plane, insisting there was “nothing wrong” with the three-year-old aircraft.
“We guarantee the safety of our aircraft and the high qualification of our crews,” UIA president Yevgen Dykhne said of the Boeing plane.
UIA vice-president of operations Ihor Sosnovsky said given the crew’s experience, it was unlikely the plane crash was the result of error.
“Tehran airport is anything but a simple one,” he said.
“Therefore, for several years UIA has been using this airport to conduct training on Boeing 737 aircraft aimed at evaluating pilots’ proficiency and ability to act in emergency cases. “According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2400 meters. Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance.”
And jet engine maker CFM slammed claims the crash was caused by engine failure, saying it was too early to speculate on what was behind the tragedy.
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