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737 crashes near Tehran, killing 176

The crash of the Boeing 737-800 is not believed to be related to the missile attacks launched by Iran against bases in Iraq.

WASHINGTON — A Boeing 737 belonging to Ukranian Airlines has crashed after take off from Imam Khomeini Airport outside of Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

A spokesman for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry said one of the engines caught fire. The pilot lost control, sending it into the ground.

The crash of Ukraine International Airlines came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but both Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Ukrainian officials initially agreed, but later said backed away from their statement. According to CNN, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran amended a previous statement saying terrorism or rocket attacks had been ruled out as a cause of the crash. 

"Information on the causes of the plane crash is being clarified by the commision," it said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy cut short a visit to Oman to return to Kyiv after the crash. He said a team of Ukrainian experts would fly to Tehran to help investigate the crash in a Facebook statement.

“Our priority is to find the truth and everyone responsible for the tragedy,” Zelenskiy wrote in a Facebook statement.

As the Associated Press reports, Iranian state media said the airplane was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members when it crashed near an airport outside of the Iranian capital of Tehran. State TV had earlier reported 180 people on board.

Credit: AP
Debris is seen from a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2019. A Ukrainian airplane carrying at least 170 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport, killing all onboard, state TV reported. (AP Photos/Mohammad Nasiri)

The majority of the passengers were Iranian nationals, Russia’s RIA Novosti agency reported, citing Iranian authorities.  

The flight tracking website FlightRadar 24 identifies it as Ukraine International Airlines flight PS 752. It originated in Tehran and was headed to Kyiv. Flight data from the airport showed a Ukrainian 737-800 stopped sending data almost immediately afterward.

“After taking off from Imam Khomeini international airport it crashed between Parand and Shahriar,” civil aviation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh reportedly said. “An investigation team from the national aviation department was dispatched to the location after the news was announced.”

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Video shown on Iran's state media outlet IRIB apparently filmed by a witness purportedly shows a plane as it crashed.

Images from the crash scene showed a field of bodies and debris stretched out across farmland.

Boeing tweeted it was aware of the reports and was gathering more information.

"This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families," the company said in a statement. "We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed."

The U.S. Department of State also released a statement of support for the families of the victims, saying the U.S. would call for "complete cooperation" with any investigation towards the cause of the crash.

"The U.S. Department of State extends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the 176 passengers and crew killed in the tragic crash of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS 752," it said. "The United States will continue to follow this incident closely and stands prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance. The United States calls for complete cooperation with any investigation into the cause of the crash."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.