Shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport, a Ukrainian aircraft carrying 176 passengers crashed on Wednesday, Jan.8, killing all on board, Iranian state TV announced.
The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in the Iranian capital. The crash happened just hours after Iran’s attack on US bases, sparking speculation the plane was shot down.
The crash is suspected to have been caused by mechanical issues, state TV in Iran reported. But, flight data indicates that, for Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, the three-year-old Boeing 737-800, after hitting an altitude of 7,925 ft suddenly disappeared.
Ali Hashem, a BBC Iran correspondent tweeted unverified video footage, that appeared to show the plane burning in the sky before crashing in a huge explosion.
“After taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, it crashed between Parand and Shahriar,” civil aviation spokesman Jafarzadeh said. “An investigation team from the national aviation department was dispatched to the location after the news was announced,” according to AP.
An Iranian rescue official, Pir Hossein Kulivand, later told state TV that all those on board were killed in the crash. He said rescue workers were attempting to retrieve the deceased. Iranian state television reported 180 passengers and crew were on board.
Earlier, Iranian state T.V. reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, “has hit U.S. Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq with tens of missiles.” The IRGC warned the United States of more “crushing responses in case of new aggression,” according to state T.V.
Shot down by mistake by Iranian anti-aircraft missile?
Pentagon officials told Fox News that Ukrainian aircraft was shot down by mistake by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.
Officials said U.S. intelligence increasingly indicates the airliner being accidentally struck by a Russian-made missile.
“An absolute tragedy,” one U.S. official told Fox News. “They just screwed up and it is tragic.”
But Iran’s head of civil aviation said Thursday that “scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical,” according to Reuters.
The U.S. official told Fox News that the form that took the aircraft down was a Russian-made SA15 rocket, which is part of the Tor surface-to-air missile system. In 2007, Russia supplied Iran with 29 Tor-M1 systems as part of a $700 million contract signed in December 2005. In military parades, Iran also displayed the missiles.
“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media earlier.
Justin Trudeau: The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the crashed plane, including dozens of Canadian citizens, was likely shot down by an Iranian missile.
“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional,” the prime minister told reporters Thursday.
According to officials, 63 passengers on the plane had Canadian passports, and many others were living in Canada as permanent residents or had visas.
“The families of the victims and all Canadians want answers. I want answers. That means closure, accountability, and justice. We will not rest until we get that,” he added.
President Trump doesn’t believe it went down due to a mechanical error
President Donald Trump also said on Thursday that he doesn’t believe the plane went down due to a mechanical error. “It’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake, on the other side,” Trump told reporters.
“We have a high level of confidence that this was shot down by Iran,” an unnamed American official was quoted by the Journal as saying.
The Boeing 737-800 is a very popular twin-engine single-aisle jetliner for short to medium-range flights. Airlines around the globe use thousands of these aircraft.
It was launched in the late 1990s and is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which was suspended after two fatal accidents for almost 10 months.
There have been a number of aviation accidents involving 737-800 aircraft in past years.