British victims of Ukrainian Airlines plane crash identified
8 January 2020, 15:23 | Updated: 8 January 2020, 15:42
The three Brits who were killed when a Ukrainian Airlines plane crashed in Iran have been named amid fears that the plane might have been shot down.
Businessman Mohammed Reza Kadkhoda-Zadeh, 40, engineer Saeed Tahmasebi, 35, and BP engineer Sam Zokaei, 42, were among the 176 people killed on board the flight.
Mr Kadkhoda-Zadeh had travelled back to his native Iran over the Christmas period in order to visit his family.
The father-of-one from Brighton was set to return home to the UK on Wednesday via Ukraine.
He ran a dry cleaning business called Smarty’s in the nearby village of Hassocks.
Staff at a neighbouring pet store paid tribute to the businessman, calling him "a lovely man [with] a lovely smile."
Store owner Stephen Edgington, 68, said: "Reza was a lovely guy. He was good looking, sociable. Before he left we were chatting and he said 'do you realise I have been here so many years?'"
Mr Tahmasebi, who had recently married Niloofar Ebrahim, was killed alongside his new wife after celebrating his marriage with Ms Ebrahim's family in Iran.
A statement from the engineer's company, Laing O'Rourke, said: "Everyone here is shocked and saddened by this very tragic news.
"Saeed was a popular and well-respected engineer and will be missed by many of his colleagues. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time and we will do all we can to support them through it."
A spokesman for Imperial College London, where he was a post-graduate researcher, said: "Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi was a brilliant engineer with a bright future.
"His contributions to systems engineering earned respect from everyone who dealt with him and will benefit society for years to come. He was a warm, humble and generous colleague, and close friend to many in our community.
"Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Saeed's family, friends and colleagues, as well as all those affected by this tragedy."
Mr Zokaei's employers at BP also spoke out about their "tragic loss."
"With the deepest regret, we can confirm that one of our colleagues at BP, Sam Zokaei, was a passenger on the Ukrainian International Airlines plane that crashed in Iran this morning, reportedly with no survivors," they said.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our friend and colleague and all of our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Mr Zokaei was a senior reservoir engineer for the oil company and was on a personal holiday.
The 42-year-old, from south-west London, had been working at BP for 14 years, but had worked in Angola, Egpyt and Azerbaijan.
On his LinkedIn page, he described himself as "a senior reservoir engineer with extensive technical and leadership experiences in reservoir performance, reservoir management and reservoir simulation."
The plane's two flight data recorders were recovered, with local media reporting that the crash was caused by technical problems shortly after take-off.
However, the vice president of operations for the commercial airline, Igor Sosnovsky, has defended the firm's safety record.
He said: "The plane reached an altitude of 2,400 metres. The chances of a mistake by the crew are slim. We are not taking it into account.
"Given their experience, it's hard to believe that there was a mistake by the crew."
Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Vadym Prystaiko, took to Twitter to announce the nationalities of those on board the crashed jet.
He wrote: "We are currently aware of the following information on the countries of origin of those killed in the crash #PS752 : Iran - 82; Canada - 63; Ukraine - 2 + 9 (crew); Sweden - 10; Afghanistan - 4; Germany - 3; United Kingdom - 3.
"We express our condolences. The Ukrainian authorities continue to investigate."
Nine members of crew and at least 26 children were also on board, according to the flight manifest.
Officials in Iran blamed an engine fire, while the Ukrainian president has ordered a criminal investigation into the crash.