A Boeing Co. 737-800 jetliner bound for Ukraine that crashed after takeoff in Iran, killing everyone on board, was most likely brought down by an engine fire, according to Tehran authorities.
Ukraine International Airlines said 167 passengers and nine crew were on the plane, an older version of the 737 that predates Boeing’s grounded Max model, which crashed at 6:18 a.m. local time Wednesday in Sabashahr, near the Iranian capital.
Iran’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization said early assessments indicate the cause was a technical issue and the transport ministry suggested a fire was to blame, dismissing speculation that the jet was downed by a stray missile following Iranian strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq.
At the same time, another state-run outlet cited an official from the Iran Civil Aviation Organization as saying the pilots didn’t declare an emergency, while an amateur video purportedly of the stricken plane showed a bright image descending steeply before hitting the ground.
Television footage showed recovery efforts at the crash sight, with debris from the plane spread across a charred field. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said about half those on board held Iranian citizenship and that there was also a large number of Canadians, as well as Swedes, Afghans, Britons and Ukrainians.
Ukraine International Vice President Ihor Sosnovskyi said in Kyiv that the plane, delivered to the airline new in 2016, was in good condition and had its last shop visit on Jan. 6. He said the crew was also very experienced and that there were no indications of human error, while declining to comment on possible reasons for the crash, the company’s first since it was set up in 1992.
The tragedy comes at a tense time for both Iran and Boeing.
The Islamic republic has fired more than a dozen missiles at U.S.-Iraqi airbases in retaliation for the killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Just prior to the crash, U.S. aviation regulators issued new restrictions barring civilian flights over Iraq and Iran.