Iran has declared that the “black box” flight recording devices will not be handed over to the US or Boeing corporation as a part of the crash investigation.
Iran’s aviation authority has said it will not hand over flight recorders from the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed moments after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew onboard, either to the aircraft’s manufacturer or US aviation authorities.
The statement was issued on Wednesday as the leaders of Ukraine and Canada, from which dozens of citizens died, vowed to identify the cause of the crash amid contradictory statements and swirling speculation.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said: “Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that … [the crash] is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board. The Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. There were also 10 Swedish passengers, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals, he said.
The announcement by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation head, Ali Abedzadeh, followed the launch of an urgent inquiry into the crash by the Ukrainian government, which rowed back on an earlier statement ruling out a terrorist act.
The developments have fuelled uncertainty over the circumstances of the crash, which occurred hours after Iran had fired a volley of missiles at bases used by US forces in neighbouring Iraq, in retaliation for the assassination of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by the US.
Speaking after the black box flight recorders were found at the crash site, Abedzadeh said: “We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer and the Americans. It’s not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation.
“This accident will be investigated by Iran’s aviation organisation, but the Ukrainians can also be present during the incident’s investigation.”
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called for complete cooperation with any investigation and said the US was prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance in identifying the cause of the crash.
Journalists at the site described farmland covered with debris. The dead lay among shattered pieces of the aircraft, and their possessions – including a child’s electric toothbrush, a stuffed animal, luggage and electronics – were strewn across the site.
Iran’s insistence that it will not hand over the black boxes to Boeing comes amid claims that at least two aircraft which had been originally routed through Iranian airspace around the time of the Iranian missile attacks on the bases in Iraq were either told to turn around or redirected.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 disappeared from flight trackers a few minutes after its delayed takeoff from Tehran, apparently suffering a catastrophic incident that caused it to break up in flames over farmland outside the city with crew unable to issue a mayday alert.
The video was published on the website of the state-run Iranian Students News Agency, which also carried a photograph of section of wing from the crashed aircraft, which some analysts said appeared to show penetration damage.
Ukraine International Airlines said it had indefinitely suspended flights to Tehran after the crash, amid announcements from a slew of other international airlines that they would be avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace following the escalating tensions between the US and Iran.
“It was one of the best planes we had, with an amazing, reliable crew,” Yevheniy Dykhne, the president of Ukraine International Airlines, said at a briefing following the crash.
As the investigation got under way, the aviation safety information-sharing website OpsGroup, which was set up following the shooting down of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, urged airline operators to err on the side of caution until the cause of the crash had been established and work on the assumption the plane had been shot down.
Under the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, of which Iran, Ukraine and the US are all members, air crash investigations are led by the country where the accident occurred.
Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the three-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 737-800, an assessment Ukrainian officials initially agreed with but later backed away from while the investigation is ongoing.
Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Service Institute, said that he believed on balance the incident was “a tragic coincidence”.
He said it would require a fairly large surface-to-air missile to inflict such catastrophic damage on a civilian airliner, “but there was no evidence of a rocket plume” in the videos that have emerged so far. “It would also be very hard to conceal such a large rocket battery from the ground,” he added.
Amid speculation about the cause of the crash, the third in recent months involving a Boeing passenger aircraft, civil aviation insiders also pointed to the large debris field to suggest the plane had broken up suddenly in midair.
The 737-800 belongs to the same family as, but is different from, the 737 Max 8 aircraft, which has been grounded since two fatal crashes occurred within six months in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018.
The 737-800 operates with a different software system to the one implicated in the Max 8 crashes.
The plane had been last serviced two days before the accident, according to the airline.
An investigation team was deployed to the site of the crash on the south-western outskirts of Tehran on Wednesday morning, said Reza Jafarzadeh, a civil aviation spokesman.
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s road and transportation ministry, told the state-run Irna news agency it appeared the pilot had lost control after a fire struck one of the plane’s engines.
Hassan Rezaeifar, the head of the air crash investigation committee, said it appeared the pilot could not communicate with air traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight. He did not provide further details.
Zelenskiy, who cut short a visit to Oman following the crash, ordered an investigation and a sweeping check of “all civilian aircraft” in Ukraine.
“Our task is to establish the cause of the crash of the Boeing and provide all necessary help to the families of the victims,” Dmytro Razumkov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, said in a statement on Facebook.
The UK Foreign Office said it was urgently seeking confirmation about how many British nationals were onboard, and would do all it could to support any families affected.
One witness, Aref Geravand, told AP the pilot managed to steer the plane towards a football field and away from a residential area, saying: “It crashed near the field and in a water canal.” (source)
In fairness to Iran, they should NOT give said box over because they have no reason to trust the US.
This is not about whether or not Iran is “good” or “bad”, but about an attempt at presenting one’s case objectively when the US has clearly been trying to provoke a war with Iran.
Ask yourself, if you had a neighbor who hated you and kept trying to call the police on you to have you arrested- the matter is not important in this case but only the principle -would you trust him to provide a fair assessment of your views?
Now consider that you have an accident involving a person a block away. Would you trust your neighbor who hates you to fairly review the facts of the case?
I would not, and with good reasons, because he would probably be biased against me. It would be like asking a all-white and local jury in South Carolina, circa 1940, to give a fair and impartial trial to a black man accused (but no proof other than the accusation) of raping a white woman. The objectivity is not going to be there because of strong pre-existing biases and a power disparity.
It is already publicly-available technology that people can edit videos to put people into them who do not exist. This is called “deep fakes” and began in the adult industry, and is something that I have covered with great concern because it will have major consequences for evidence and evidence manufacturing in the future.
Imagine what the military has used of. Does one not think that Iran is not aware of this, and is not concerned that evidence, regardless of what it says, may be manipulated against her? This is not to say that Iran is “fair”, but that she has legitimate, evidence-based concerns for her actions.
It will be interesting to see what the result of this is, especially from Ukraine and Germany, as I suspect this incident may be tied to the geopolitical conflict between the US and Russia by way of future alliances with Germany.