On Wednesday, a Boeing 737 owned by Ukraine International Airlines, with 176 aboard, crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport. All the passengers were killed.
Little is known about the disaster but the timing and placement are too significant to be totally coincidental. With an Iranian missile strike on American forces at roughly the same time, everyone is wondering if the plane was shot down or if there was a bomb on board.
After offering “sincere condolences” to relatives of victims, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy added even more fuel to the speculation fire, by telling the public he “had instructed his prosecutor general to open criminal proceedings following the crash.” He didn’t specify who the “criminals” might be, but the statement clearly implies they don’t think this was a routine part failure.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk cautioned against speculation that the plane may have been shot down by a missile but noted “Ukraine had banned flights through Iranian airspace by its airliners.”
An amateur video has been run by Iranian news outlet showing “a flash in a dark sky descending rapidly with comments that the aircraft was ‘on fire,’ and then a brighter flash as it appears to hit the ground.”
Hassan Rezaeifar, the general director of the Iran Civil Aviation Organization, and in charge of the body’s panel to investigate aircraft accidents, stated that the pilot did not declare an emergency. That means whatever happened was a sudden event that gave no warning.
Debris and still smoldering parts were “strewn across a field” while rescue workers scrambled to retrieve the bodies. 82 of the victims were Iranian. There were also 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 3 Germans, and 3 Britons, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister relates.
Based on preliminary information, the Ukrainian embassy to Iran rushed to blamed the crash on engine failure.
CFM, The joint French-U.S. company co-owned by General Electric and Safran that built the jet’s engines, immediately pushed back, saying it was way to early to make that assumption. “Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company statement notes.
The three-year-old plane was last serviced two days ago. There was no sign that anything was wrong before it took off from Tehran, the airline reports. As noted by Reuters, “Modern aircraft are designed and certified to cope with an engine failure shortly after take-off and to fly for extended periods on one engine.”
Iran backed down on the unfounded claim and issued an amendment admitting “that the causes had not been disclosed and that any previous comments were not official.”
In a separate statement, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Tehran’s civil aviation organization announced “Iran will not give the black box of the crashed Ukrainian airliner to planemaker Boeing,” Reuters reports.
“Semi-official” news agency Mehr added “it was not clear which country Iran would send the box to so that its data could be analyzed,” sidestepping the question of whether Iran would turn it over to anyone at all.
Under international rules Iran has responsibility for investigating the crash but Ukraine would still be involved in the investigation. After meeting with his government officials, President Zelenskiy announced Ukraine will send a team of experts to Iran later on Wednesday. “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his citizens that Canada will work with the others to ensure that the crash is thoroughly investigated.
“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”
The United States would have standing as the country of origin where the plane was designed and built. France would be involved if the engines built by CFM are implicated.