A Ukrainian passenger plane crashed minutes after take-off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport early on Wednesday killing all 176 on board, local reports say.
The Ukrainian embassy in Iran and local reports said Flight PS752 of Ukraine International Airlines may have gone down due to technical issues. But a Ukrainian news agency cited a Jordanian news site as saying it was mistakenly shot down by Iranian air defence forces amid mounting military tensions in the region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered condolences to the families of the victims and ordered a criminal investigation into the plane crash.
A maintenance check will be carried out for the country’s entire civilian fleet to avert accidents, Zelensky said.
Ukraine has cancelled all flights over Iran for now.
The Boeing 737-800 of Ukraine International Airlines took off from the international airport at 6.12am local time and went down six minutes later before crashing and exploding in flames.
According to airport authorities, the plane bound for Ukrainian capital Kiev was carrying 167 passengers, including 81 women and 15 children, and a nine-member crew.
The accident happened over Parand, 60 kilometres southwest of Tehran.
The pilots manning the aircraft did not report any emergency minutes before the crash, said Hassan Rezaeifar, an Iranian official handling aviation accidents.
Website FlightRadar24 said the plane stopped sending data seconds after the take-off.
The Ministry of Road Communications and Urban Development told IRNA that the plane crashed after its engine caught fire.
Iran’s top civil aviation official Ali Abedzadeh said the flight recorders of the plane recovered from the crash site will throw light on what happened inside the plane moments before the crash.
Ukraine International Airlines said the Boeing 737-800 jet airliner was delivered to the airline directly from the factory in 2016. No issues were reported during the last maintenance check carried out on Jan 6.
Among the 176 people on board flight PS752 were 11 Ukrainian citizens, including nine crew members and two passengers,
82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, ten Swedes, four Afghan nationals, three Germans, and three Britons, the airlines said as it released the list of crash victims.
The airlines’ CEO Yevhen Dykhne said the crew members of flight PS752 were among the best they had.
Ekaterina, wife of the crew commander Volodymyr Gaponenko, told a local channel that he was “living aviation”, a “truly great pilot.”