Jan 8 (AL JAZEERA) – A Ukrainian airliner with 176 passengers and crew on board has crashed near Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport early on Wednesday.
Iran‘s state television said all those on board, majority of whom are Iranians, were killed.
According to the Iranian media, the Boeing 737-800 jet crashed near Parand, a suburb southwest of capital Tehran shortly after the takeoff.
The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport when a fire struck one of its engines, said Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry.
The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Images posted on social media also indicated that there were no survivors. Earlier reports said there were 180 on board the plane.
Associated Press journalists who reached the crash site saw a wide field of field of debris scattered across farmland. The dead lay among shattered pieces of the aircraft. Rescuers in masks shouted over the noise of hovering helicopters as they worked.
According to Flighradar24 flight tracker, the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was scheduled to take off at 5:15am Tehran time (01:45 GMT) for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
However, the departure was delayed by almost an hour as it took off at 6:12am (02:42 GMT).
A video posted by Iran’s ISNA news agency showed a faint glow of light flickering in the dark shortly before a huge fireball was seen.
Photos posted online by ISNA also showed wreckage of the plane scattered all over the ground, as emergency personnel inspected the area.
“An investigation team from the national aviation department was dispatched to the location after the news was announced. We will give more reports in upcoming bulletins,” Reza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman of the Iranian Aviation Organisation told reporters in Tehran.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy extended his condolences to the families of the victims. The country’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk confirmed the casualty toll.
Staff at the Boryspil airport in Kyiv, where the plane was headed, told The Associated Press that passengers on this flight are usually Iranian students coming back to Ukraine after winter holidays.
In a statement, Boeing said it was “aware of the media reports” of the incident, and that it was “gathering more information”.
The Boeing 737-800 is a common single-aisle, twin-engine jet used for short to medium-range flights. Thousands of these planes are used by airlines around the world.
Introduced in the late 1990s, it is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months following two deadly crashes.
A number of 737-800 aircraft have been involved in deadly accidents over the years.
In March 2016, a FlyDubai 737-800 from Dubai crashed while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia, killing 62 people on board. Another 737-800 flight from Dubai, operated by Air India Express, crashed in May 2010 while trying to land in Mangalore, India, killing more than 150 on board.
In recent years, Iran has seen several plane crashes.
In early 2019, a Boeing 707 military cargo plane crashed in bad weather west of the Iranian capital, killing 15 out of the 16 passengers.
In February 2018, an Iranian passenger plane with 65 people on board crashed during a flight from Tehran to Yasuj.
In 2014, an Antonov-140 type plane with 48 people on board crashed shortly after the takeoff from Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, killing 39 people. NW