Boeing 737 Plane Crashes in Iran Shortly After Takeoff

The plane, which was carrying at least 170 people, went down near Tehran, killing everyone on board. Iranian state media cited technical problems.

Credit…Rohhollah Vadati/ISNA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 carrying at least 170 people on Wednesday crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing everyone on board.

The circumstances of the crash are not fully known. The Iranian state news media cited technical problems on the plane, which was bound for Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

The disaster has the potential to add to the crisis at Boeing, which has been dealing with the fallout from two crashes involving a different jet. It also happened against the backdrop of the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, which on Tuesday attacked two bases in Iraq that house American troops.

Photos and videos from the crash site showed rescuers in a field littered with plane debris, smouldering fires and the personal belongings of passengers. The Iranian Students’ News Agency, a state-run media organization, shared a video it said showed the predawn crash, with a distant light descending in the distance before a bright burst filled the sky upon impact.

The crash took place as Iran was likely bracing for retaliation to its missile attacks hours earlier against U.S. military bases in Iraq. But the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran said the passenger plane was not shot down.

“According to preliminary information, the aeroplane crashed as a result of engine failure due to technical reasons,” the embassy said in a statement. “The possibility of a terrorist attack or a rocket attack can currently be ruled out.”

Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told the Islamic Republic News Agency, the government’s official news agency, that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control. Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 left Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6:12 a.m. on Wednesday and lost contact at 6:14 a.m., according to a flight tracker.

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“We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” Boeing said in a statement.

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny after the crash of two 737 Max jets in less than five months, which together killed 346 people. The Max has been grounded worldwide since March, creating a crisis for the company and leading to the firing of the chief executive.

As the company struggles to get a fix for the Max approved by regulators, new safety risks have recently emerged with the plane, which the company may also need to assess on the 737 NG. The Boeing 737-800 has not been flagged for issues.

The crash came at a tense time in Iran, as conflict with the United States had the country on edge. On Tuesday, the F.A.A. barred American airliners from flying over Iran, citing the risk of commercial planes being mistaken for military aircraft. Several non-American carriers rerouted their flights on Wednesday to avoid Iraq and Iran, according to Flightradar24, a site that tracks aeroplane transponders.

Read the latest updates and analysis on tensions in Iran.

The crash could also touch a nerve politically in Ukraine, as the airline operating the flight, Ukraine International Airlines, is partly owned through a network of offshore companies by Ihor Kolomoisky. Mr. Kolomoisky is an oligarch with close ties to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukrainian officials said that all passengers and crew members on board were believed to be dead and that their identities were still being ascertained. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said 168 passengers had checked in for the flight. Nine crew members were also on board, the council said in a statement.

Most of the passengers were Iranian, according to Press TV, an Iranian state news media agency, which cited an airport spokesman.

Mr. Zelensky cut short his trip to Oman, where he was spending the holidays and was returning to Kyiv. “Horrible news from the Middle East,” he said in a post on Facebook. “My sincere condolences to the relatives and loved ones of all of the passengers and crew members.”

While airlines in the former Soviet Union have a generally poor safety record, Ukraine International Airlines says on its website that its safety is audited and meets Federal Aviation Administration standards for code-sharing flights with foreign partners. It had not previously suffered a fatal crash, according to a list of Ukrainian aircraft accidents compiled by the Flight Safety Foundation.

The jet that crashed had only been in service for three years. Flightradar24 reported that Ukraine International Airlines received the Boeing 737-800 new from the manufacturer in 2016.

The airline began in the 1990s as newly independent Ukraine’s state flag carrier but was subsequently privatized. Its website calls the business a “public private entity.” The airline offers five direct flights per week from Tehran to Kyiv. The airline flies a fleet of 35 Boeings and seven Embraer aircraft, according to its website.

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Officials from the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran were at the airport Wednesday morning and working to compile a list of the passengers on board, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited an embassy official as saying. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it had set up a crisis working group and a telephone hotline in response to the crash.

Source: The New York Times

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