NBC NEWS – A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed after takeoff in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Wednesday, killing all on board, according to Iranian state television and Ukrainian officials.
Iranian State TV reported that the crash was suspected to have been caused by mechanical issues, without elaborating. Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, said it was too early to determine the cause.
According to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, 82 people on board were Iranian, 63 Canadian, and 11 Ukrainian, including nine crew members. Ten were from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Germany and three from the United Kingdom.
Prystaiko later said he had spoken with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, and they agreed to coordinate investigation groups to determine the cause of the crash.
The crash came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. There has been no link made between the two incidents by officials on either side.
The plane’s operator, Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), confirmed the incident, saying 167 people and nine crew members were on board a Boeing 737 when it took off from Tehran International Airport en route to Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, at 6:10 a.m. local time (9:40 p.m. ET). It disappeared from the radars a few minutes after departure.
It’s not clear how the plane went down, but video from the scene showed what appeared to be pieces of an aircraft fuselage, an engine and other debris on the outskirts of Tehran.
“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims,” a Facebook statement from UIA said.
During attacks by #Iran a Ukraine Boeing 737 commercial plane crashed shortly after take off from Tehran. Tragically all 176 people onboard were killed. It was carrying mostly Iranian, Canadian, Ukrainianians, as well as some Afghan, Swedish, British & German passengers.
— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) January 8, 2020
The airline said it’s suspending its flights to Tehran until further notice and is in close cooperation with the aviation authorities, “taking all measures” to determine the cause of the crash.
In a statement, Boeing called the crash “a tragic event” and said “heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families.”
“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,” it added.
Iran’s Mehr news agency said the plane crashed “due to technical problems after takeoff.” It quoted the head of the Ministry of Road communications and information center as saying that the plane crashed after its engine caught fire.
Ukrainian embassy in Iran originally said that the crash was likely caused by an engine problem. It also ruled out terrorism and rocket attack as possible causes. However, it later removed that information from its website and said the cause of the crash was being determined.
UIA’s vice president of operations, Igor Sosnovsky, said in a press conference earlier Wednesday the plane’s captain had more than 11,000 hours of flight experience, almost all of it on a Boeing 737.
The airline said the aircraft was built in 2016 and delivered directly to them from the manufacturer. The last scheduled maintenance took place on Monday, it added.
“An investigation will be conducted with the involvement of the aviation authorities of Ukraine, Iran, representatives of the Boeing manufacturer, the airline, and the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine,” UIA said.
The airline told NBC News in an email that it’s the first plane crash in the UIA history.
In a statement on Facebook, Ukraine’s president asked everyone “to refrain from speculation and putting forward untested versions of the disaster before the official announcements.”
He later said he instructed the country’s Attorney General to open criminal proceedings into the crash.
“We have to work out all the possible versions,” Zelenskiy added. “Regardless of the conclusions as to the causes of the crash, the airworthiness of the entire civilian fleet will be examined.”
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine also urged Wednesday not to rush to conclusions about the causes of the crash.
“We already have a certain amount of information to understand what is happening,” said Oleksiy Danilov, adding that two planes will be dispatched from Ukraine to bring back the remains of the victims.
Reports of the crash came hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq as retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general by a U.S. airstrike. The Defense Department said Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles early Wednesday local time.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, issued “notices to airmen” outlining flight restrictions in the region Tuesday night.
The FAA said the notices prohibited U.S. civilian aviation operators from flying in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The agency said it was closely monitoring events in the Middle East.