U.S. Believes Ukraine Plane Was Accidentally Shot Down by Iran
UPDATE (January 10, 2020, 12:05 EST): Iran accused the U.S. of "spreading lies" on Friday, a day after U.S. officials said they believe the Ukraine International Airlines plane that crashed in Iran shortly after takeoff was in fact shot down, according to CBS News. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said his country's intelligence indicates that the plane crash, which killed all 176 people on board, was shot down by an Iranian missiles, perhaps unintentionally, according to CBC.
Additionally, CBS reported Iran's civil aviation chief said he was "certain" a missile had not struck plane and any conclusions before the data from the black box is extracted "is not an expert opinion."
UPDATE (January 9, 2020, 3:12pm EST):U.S. officials believe the Ukraine International Airlines plane that crashed in Iran shortly after takeoff was shot down, allegedly mistakenly, CBS News reports. Sources told the outlet that prior to the crash, signals of a radar being turned on were picked up, and U.S. satellites detected a pair of surface-to-air missiles launched shortly before the explosion. According to CBS News, it appeared missile components were found near the crash site.
A Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran shortly after taking off Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, the majority of whom were Iranians and Canadians, according to reports.
The plane, which was headed to Kiev, took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport at 6:12 a.m. local time and crashed just minutes later, the BBC reported. The plane, a Boeing 737-800, had its last scheduled maintenance on Monday and showed no signs of issues before takeoff.
The crash comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases holding U.S. forces. It also occurred after many major airlines canceled or rerouted flights from the airspace around Iran and Iraq. The FAA banned U.S. airlines from flying in airspace over Iran, the Gulf of Oman, and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to NBC News.
Ukraine International Airlines has also since suspended flights to Tehran.
Prior to the crash, the plane had climbed to about 8,000 feet before it disappeared from flight tracking, the BBC reported. Unverified video footage from Iranian TV, posted by CBS News, appears to show the plane on fire as it fell to the ground.
While engine failure was initially blamed as the cause of the crash by Ukraine's Tehran embassy, the BBC reported that statement has since been rescinded.
"The airplane was heavily fragmented, which means either there was an intense impact on the ground or something happened in the sky," Todd Curtis, an aviation safety analyst, told the BBC.
The plane’s black boxes have been recovered from the crash site, but the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority, Ali Abedzadeh, told Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency that the U.S. would not be involved in the investigation, CNN reported.
"We will not give the black box to the manufacturer [Boeing] or America," he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would cut his trip to Oman short and head back to Kiev, offering his condolences on Facebook. He said the country will send experts and security officials to Iran.
“Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe," he wrote, according to CNN.
Of the 176 victims on board, there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British, according to the BBC. Of those, 15 were children. Victims also included the flight’s nine crew members — three pilots and six flight attendants.
This was the first such accident for Ukraine International Airlines since the company was founded in 1992.