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Wed 8 Jan 2020 09:33 AM

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All passengers killed in Ukrainian plane crash near Tehran

It wasn't clear how many people were on board the three year-old Boeing 737 aircraft but local reports ranged from 167 to 180

All passengers killed in Ukrainian plane crash near Tehran
People stand near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on January 8 2020.

A Boeing Co. 737 passenger jet bound for Ukraine crashed shortly after take-off in Iran, killing everyone on board.

All 167 passengers and 9 crew died after Ukraine International Flight 752 crashed at 6:18 a.m. local time in Sabashahr near Tehran, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said on its website. The head of Tehran’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization, Mansour Darajati, said early assessments suggest the crash was caused by a technical issue and an emergency meeting will be held in the coming hours, state-run IRNA reported.

An official at Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed and there were no survivors. Television footage showed recovery efforts at the crash site, where metal and other debris was spread over a charred field.

The tragedy comes at a tense time for both Iran and Boeing. Iran has just fired more than a dozen missiles at US-Iraqi airbases in retaliation to the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani last week.

Just prior to Wednesday’s crash, US aviation regulators issued new restrictions barring civilian flights over Iraq and Iran. Meanwhile, Boeing is still reeling from one of its worst crises ever following two crashes involving its best-selling 737 Max jets, which have been grounded.

The website flightradar24 showed the 737-800 jet left Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport for Boryspil International Airport early Wednesday morning local time.

“We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in an email.

The jet lifted off and climbed to about 7,900 feet altitude (2,408 meters) and traveling at about 300 miles (483 kilometers) an hour when it stopped transmitting its position and disappeared, according to data supplied by FlightRadar24. Other aircraft operating out of Tehran were tracked normally, said FlightRadar24 spokesman Ian Petchenik.

A Ukraine International Airlines employee picking up the general line declined to comment. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut a trip to Oman short to go to Kyiv, his office said.

Website planefinder.net, which tracks flights worldwide, listed the two-engine aircraft as three years old, saying it was delivered in July 2016.

Boeing is still struggling with the fallout from crashes in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopia last March. Those disasters, which killed nearly 350 people, involved the US manufacturer’s 737 Max jet, which has been grounded globally for 10 months. The 737-800 and 737 Max are both variants of Boeing’s 737 narrow-body planes but the 737-800 hasn’t been grounded.

Boeing is still developing a fix for the flaws discovered in a flight-control system new to the 737 Max model. The 737-800 that is reported to have crashed near Tehran on Wednesday didn’t have that system.

Under international law, Iran would lead the investigation since the crash occurred on its soil. Few nations have the expertise and technical facilities to conduct a full accident probe, however, so the US, France or other countries often provide assistance. The plane’s crash-proof recorders, for example, will have to be downloaded in a specialized lab and only a handful exist around the world.

The international rules for investigations also allow the country that manufactured the plane to participate in an investigation. That arrangement allows planemakers to provide their technical expertise. However, the current political turmoil between Iran and the US is likely to complicate the involvement of the National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing.

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