Iran plane crash crew 'did not radio for help' but Tehran refuses to hand over black box

9 January 2020, 07:00

A section of the downed aircraft
A section of the downed aircraft. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The crew of the Ukrainian passenger aircraft that crashed near Tehran did not make a radio call for help and were trying to turn back to the airport when the plane went down, Iranian investigators say.

Iran’s civil aviation authority made the comments in a preliminary crash report a day after the crash of the Ukrainian plane that killed all 176 people on board.

The investigators also said that the plane was engulfed in fire before it crashed.

The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine, the report said.

Three Britons were among the dead after a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed moments after take-off, with investigators now focusing on how the aircraft fell out of the sky.

The victims included engineer Sam Zokaei, from Surrey, Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi, from west London, and Mohammad Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh, from near Brighton.

All three were named on the list of 167 passengers on board flight PS752 by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), which crashed moments after it left Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6.10am local time (2.40am GMT) on Wednesday, bound for the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Rescue workers at the site of the crash
Rescue workers at the site of the crash. Picture: PA

Nine members of crew and at least 26 children were also on board, according to the flight manifest.

The Iranian military disputed suggestions the airliner was brought down by a missile, something Downing Street added there was "no indication" of, after the Ukrainian authorities refused to rule out the prospect.

Officials in Iran blamed an engine fire, while the Ukrainian president ordered a criminal investigation into the crash.

Announcing that a team of security officials and experts will fly to Iran to aid the investigation, Volodymyr Zelenskyy added: "Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe."

The airline ruled out human error.

In a statement the airline said: "According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2,400 metres.

"Given the crew's experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance."

Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran
Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran. Picture: PA

Iran will not give the black box from a crashed Boeing passenger plane to the manufacturer in the United States, Iranian media has reported.

The flight recorders, known as black boxes despite their orange colour, provide key information for investigators about the final moments of aircraft before serious crashes.

On Wednesday, the head of the Iran Civil Aviation Organisation, Ali Abedzadeh, was quoted as saying that Iran would not give the flight recorder to US-based Boeing or US authorities.

Mr Abedzadeh added that it is unclear which country the black box will be sent to for investigation. Ukraine is expected to be involved in the process.

Iranian state media has reported both recorders have already been recovered from the wreckage.

Graham Brathwaite, Professor of Safety and Accident Investigation and Director of Transport Systems at Cranfield University, said: "One of the other states that would normally participate is the state of the manufacturer, in this case the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"It would be difficult for the NTSB to deploy to Iran at the moment, so there is provision for another state to volunteer its services."