Iran plane crash: What we know about flight PS752

January 10, 2020

A Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board.

What happened?

On 8 January, at 06:12 local time (02:42 GMT), UIA flight PS752 took off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 - one of the international airline industry's most widely used aircraft models.
Before it had left the airport's air space, the plane turned around and tried to return to the runway. Shortly afterwards, it crashed.

Who was on board?

Of the 176 people on board, 15 were children.
Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including all nine crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.

How is it being investigated?

Under international protocol, the country where the plane crashes usually leads the investigation.
As the aircraft was made in the US, US officials, including from its National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), would typically participate in any inquiry.
Iran had initially ruled out handing over any information to the US authorities. But the country's representative at the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization told Reuters on Thursday that Iran had formally invited the NTSB to take part in the investigation, and it has agreed to assign an investigator.

What caused the crash?

Iranian authorities have blamed technical issues, but the crash's timing - just hours after Iran launched missiles at US targets in Iraq - provoked speculation about other possible causes.
Tom Burridge, the BBC's transport correspondent, said the rapid disappearance of tracking data suggested a catastrophic incident occurred.
Some aviation experts have also cast doubt on claims, made shortly after the crash on Iranian state media, that the crash was likely to have been caused by an engine fire.
Commercial aircraft are designed to be able to withstand - in general - a failed engine and to land safety.
On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said evidence suggested an Iranian missile brought down the aircraft by accident.
"We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence," Mr Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa. "The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional."
He was echoing earlier reports in US media, which said Pentagon officials were confident that the aircraft was shot down.
Newsweek cited Pentagon and Iraqi sources as saying the strike was probably accidental. CBS News then said US intelligence officials had picked up signals indicating a radar was turned on and two missiles launched.
A team of 45 Ukrainian experts arrived in Tehran on Thursday morning to assist Iranian authorities and help with the identification and repatriation of victims.
Oleksiy Danylov, head of Ukraine's national security council, said that four main possible crash causes were being investigated:
  • a missile strike
  • a mid-air collision with a drone or other flying object
  • engine destruction/explosion due to technical reasons
  • an explosion inside the plane as a result of a terror attack
President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked people to refrain from speculation regarding the crash and insisted "a thorough and independent investigation will be conducted".

How has Iran responded?

The government in Tehran has ruled out a missile strike by its air defences.
Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation (CAOI) released its own initial report into the crash on Thursday.
It said the Boeing 737-800 suffered a technical problem shortly after take-off, and cited witnesses, including the crew of another passenger plane, that it was on fire prior to impact.
Authorities said they lost radar contact when the plane was at an altitude of about 8,000ft (2,400m), minutes after taking off.
No radio distress call was made by the pilot, the report said.

What are Iranian authorities saying?

Iranian media blamed technical problems and quoted an aviation official who said no emergency had been declared.
In a sign of the potential difficulties facing crash investigators, the head of Iran's civil aviation organisation was quoted as saying the Ukrainian plane's "black boxes" - the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder - had been found but would not be handed over, either to Boeing or the Americans.
Ali Abedzadeh said "terrorism" had played no role in the crash, Iran's conservative Mehr news agency reported. He added that at this stage it was unclear who would analyse the black boxes.
Another Iranian official, Qasem Biniaz, blamed an engine fire. "Had the accident happened due to a missile strike, the plane would have exploded in the air," he told the IRNA news agency.
Normally, the US National Transportation Safety Board would have a role to play in any international investigations involving US-made Boeings. But the board must act with permission and in accordance with legislation of the foreign country concerned.
Video circulating on social media appeared to show the last few seconds of the plane's flight. It can be seen streaking across the night sky while on fire before it quickly loses height. There is an initial explosion close to the ground and then a final blast that lights up the area.
Debris and engine parts from the Boeing 737-800 NG plane were found some 10km (6 miles) from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport to the west of the capital, and rescue workers with face masks searched the wreckage for victims.
Throughout the morning, Red Crescent workers laid out a long line of body bags. Personal effects such as children's books, clothes and shoes lay strewn around the area, alongside the mangled debris of the plane.
The head of Red Crescent said that it was "impossible" for anyone to have survived the crash.
All direct flights between Ukraine and Iran were suspended, while a number of airlines announced that they were avoiding both Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
Air France and KLM said they would use alternative routes while Lufthansa said it was also cancelling its daily flight to Tehran. Qantas, Air India, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines were among other airlines taking action.

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