All the 176 passengers on board the ill-fated Ukrainian International Airlines aircraft that crashed within minutes after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini Airport, in Tehran, have been declared dead. Iran's state television said that all those on board the airliner were killed. The plane was headed to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, burst into flames mid-air within three minutes after taking off from the Iranian airport. The Ukraine bound aeroplane with 176 members on board including passengers and crew members, reportedly developed a technical snag.
Flight lost communication immediately after take-off
According to website FlightRadar24, the Ukrainian 737-800 stopped transmitting data to the Air Traffic Controller immediately after take-off. The ill-fated aircraft was delayed by an hour before it finally took off at 6.12 am, local time. It reached an altitude of 7952 ft before it burst into a ball of flames and came crashing down around Parand, located 60 kilometres south-west of Tehran.
According to the civil aviation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh, an investigation team was immediately rushed to the crash site. Four helicopters and 22 ambulances were immediately pressed into service to rescue the injured. However, the rescue process was hindered by the raging fire at the site.
Ukrainian President sends condolence message
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, is currently in Oman, said in a message: "Terrible news from the Middle East. This morning, after taking off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport (Tehran), a passenger plane of Ukraine International Airlines crashed near the airport."
"According to preliminary data, all passengers and crew members were killed. Our embassy clarifies the information about the circumstances of the tragedy and the lists of casualties. My sincere condolences to the families and friends of all passengers and crew members," he added.
Did Ukrainian 737-800 shared the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) ?
The crash came hours after, Iran targeted the two US army bases in Iraq, early on Wednesday morning. "It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel," the Pentagon said in a statement.
The attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and Erbil base in Iraqi Kurdistan was Iran's direct assault on US after its 1979 seize of Tehran based US Embassy. Iran's Revolutionary Guards confirmed the missile attack called 'Martyr Soleimani'. It came hours after the funeral of top Quds Force commander Qsem Soleimani, who was killed by the US drone strike in Baghdad last week.
Moments after the attack, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued emergency restrictions for the Gulf airspace, in view of the escalating US-Iran tension.
In a statement issued to the airmen, FAA said that restrictions were being issued due to "heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations."
The aircraft turning in to a ball of fire just before it came crashing down, raised speculations that it might have been shot down. Memories of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, shot down in 2014 by a missile over Ukraine, came flooding back. A scheduled passenger flight MH 17 had 298 people on board. It was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it was shot down on 17 July while flying over eastern Ukraine by the pro-Russian rebels.
Twitteratis raise their concerns
Twitter was soon abuzz with netizens raising doubts behind the actual reason of crash. "Am I over thinking this? The impeachment is tied to Ukraine. The war is tied to Iran. And the plane crash happened after the #IranAttacks Someone tell me I'm wrong," tweeted one user.
"Tump probably contacted Ukraine to have the plane crash with technical difficulties, just so ppl can think that iran shot it i think so because they want to divert the attention from the passenger plane Iran Air flight 655 that the US sot down, killing 290 ppl in 1988," wrote another.
"Don't take Tehran's word for it & don't assign responsibility for or assume the cause of #Ukraine plane crash. Mechanical? Perhaps, but there's much at play in region & many actors. Wait for more info," tweeted another user.
"#planecrash near Tehran with 180 passengers, #ukraine Airliner...rumor says it was mistakenly hit by Iran Air Defence?" questioned a user.