A Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran, Iran, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
Bloomberg identified the jet as Ukraine International Flight 752, a 737-800 NG that was heading from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport for Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport and stopped transmitting roughly two minutes after takeoff. Ukrainian International Airlines told CNN that the plane “was built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer.”
“According to preliminary information, the aeroplane crashed as a result of engine failure due to technical reasons,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Iran said in a statement, according to an English translation by the New York Times. “The possibility of a terrorist attack or a rocket attack can currently be ruled out.”
Curiously, the embassy’s statement, which was published online, delivered a 404 notice as of 4:00 am ET, indicating the statement may have been deleted. It’s not yet clear why. [Update, 6:05 am ET: The Ukrainian Embassy in Iran has issued a new statement that doesn’t mention engine failure, according to Reuters, saying that previous comments were “not official.”]
An embassy official said Iranian authorities had asked it to rescind an earlier statement from Iran based on preliminary information that had blamed the accident on engine failure.
Ukraine International Airlines said that the crashed plane had passed its last technical service inspection on January 6, according to Reuters. The airline also said that the pilots were “very experienced,” and that there was “nothing wrong” with its plane.
Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs reported the nationalities of those on board, including 82 people from Iran, 63 from Canada, 11 from Ukraine (including 9 crew), 10 from Sweden, 4 from Afghanistan, 3 from the United Kingdom, and 3 from Germany.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated that he would cancel an overseas trip to Oman and return to Ukraine in the wake of the crash.
“This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families,” Boeing spokesperson Peter P. Pedraza told Gizmodo via email. “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.”
Footage posted to Twitter by BBC Iran correspondent Ali Hashem appeared to show the jet in flames before exploding shortly before its collision with the ground.
There is no indication that the crash has anything to do with retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, conducted in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time, according to multiple sources.
The Iranian strikes followed a U.S. decision to assassinate one of its top military officials, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, by air strike last week. However, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed emergency restrictions barring U.S. pilots and aircraft from flying over Iran or Iraq due to the risk of being confused with military craft following the missile strikes.
On Oct. 28, 2018, and March 10, 2019, two separate crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets killed a cumulative 346 people; the entire 737 Max line has been grounded worldwide since, costing the company billions. It continues to work on software fixes for the 737 Max’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a flight control system intended to compensate for the line’s larger engines, even as Boeing and the FAA face allegations that they ignored safety issues in their rush to rule the jet airworthy. MCAS is not installed on the 737-800 line.
The AFP tweeted out a graphic showing the flight path of Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS-752 before it crashed.
“In connection with the information on the existing risks to the security of international flights of civil aircraft before the subsequent notification, the Federal Air Transport Agency recommends not using the airspace over the territories of Iran, Iraq, the Persian and Oman gulfs for flights of civil aircraft of the Russian Federation, including transit flights,” Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said.
The black box of the plane has reportedly been located and a thorough investigation will be conducted, according to Iranian broadcaster Irib. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is reportedly refusing to hand over the black box to Boeing, according to the BBC.
Updated with statement from Boeing at 6:55 am ET.
Correction: An early version of this post stated that the plane stopped transmitting roughly 8 minutes after takeoff. The latest reports indicate it was just two minutes.