A Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 carrying 176 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 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. It also has the potential to add to the crisis at Boeing, which has been dealing with the fallout from two crashes involving a different jet.
Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs said the victims included 82 from Iran,11 from Ukraine, 63 from Canada, 10 from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Germany and three from Britain.
Photos and videos from the crash site showed rescuers in a field littered with plane debris, smoldering 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.
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.
After the crash, Ukraine’s Embassy in Iran initially issued a statement ruling out terrorism or a rocket attack as a cause of the crash. But the statement was later removed from the embassy’s website and replaced by a statement saying it was too early to draw any conclusions about what had happened.
At a news conference at Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport several hours after the crash, Ukraine International Airlines executives said the plane was in good working order and operated by highly trained crew. They offered no theories as to what might have happened and declined to comment on whether or not it might have been shot down.
“Given their experience, it is very difficult to say that there was something wrong with the crew,” Ihor Sosnovskyi, the airline’s vice president of flight operations, said at the briefing.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said he had ordered the prosecutor general to open a criminal investigation into the crash and that the country’s entire civil aviation fleet would be checked.
“All possible versions of what occurred must be examined,” Mr. Zelensky said in a Facebook post.
Boeing faces its own pressure. The company 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 is part of the 737-NG family.
“We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” Boeing said in a statement.
(New York Times)