A Ukrainian airliner burst into flames shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 179 people aboard in a crash that an initial report blamed on engine failure.
Debris and smouldering engine parts were strewn across a field around 10 km (six miles) from Imam Khomeini airport as rescue workers with face masks retrieved bodies of the victims.
Ukraine’s embassy in Iran, citing preliminary information, said the Boeing 737 suffered engine failure and the crash was not caused by “terrorism”.
Carrier Ukraine International Airlines said it was doing everything possible to confirm the cause, and the investigation would also involve Boeing and Ukrainian and Iranian authorities. It was the Kiev-based airline’s first fatal accident.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said all on board had died. “My sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of all passengers and crew,” he said in a statement.
He warned against speculation about the crash. “I ask everyone to keep from speculating and putting forth unconfirmed theories about the crash,” he wrote on Facebook, as he cut short a vacation in Oman and flew back to Ukraine.
“The fire is so heavy that we cannot do any rescue […] we have 22 ambulances, four bus ambulances and a helicopter at the site,” Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s emergency services, told Iranian state television.
Pir-Hossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services Organization, told ISNA that among 179 aboard, 147 were Iranians and 32 were foreign nationals.
Iran’s aviation authority said it would not hand over to Americans the recovered black boxes of a Boeing 737 that crashed Wednesday. “We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer (Boeing) and the Americans,” Iran Civil Aviation Organization 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,” he added.
Following the crash of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, Iran said it had recovered the Boeing 737’s two black boxes.
Abedzadeh said that based on global aviation rules, it was the right of the country where air crashes occur to carry out the investigation.
“This accident will be investigated by Iran’s aviation organization but the Ukrainians can also be present during the incident’s investigation,” he added. — Agencies