Boeing jet crashes in Iran with no survivors, security sources see technical cause

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Boeing jet crashes in Iran with no survivors, security sources see technical cause

A Ukrainian airliner fell to earth in a fireball shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board in a crash that sparked an international scramble to establish the cause.

Censor.NET reports citing Reuters.

The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800, en route to Kyiv and carrying mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians, crashed hours after Iran fired missiles at bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq, leading some to speculate that the plane may have been hit.

But five security sources - three Americans, one European and one Canadian - who asked not to be named, told Reuters the initial assessment of Western intelligence agencies was that the plane had suffered a technical malfunction and had not been brought down by a missile. There was evidence one of the jet’s engines had overheated, the Canadian source said.

The probe comes after Boeing Co (BA.N) grounded its 737 MAX fleet after two crashes in 2018 and 2019. The 737-800 is one of the world’s most-flown models with a good safety record and does not have the software feature implicated in crashes of the 737 MAX.

"We are in contact with our airline customers and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed," the manufacturer said in a statement earlier on Wednesday. It declined further comment. Its shares fell 1.1% on Wednesday.

In Paris on Wednesday morning, the maker of the plane’s engines, French-U.S. firm CFM - co-owned by General Electric Co (GE.N) and France’s Safran (SAF.PA) - said speculation regarding the cause was premature.

Smoldering parts and debris, including shoes and clothes, were strewn across a field southwest of the Iranian capital, where rescue workers in face masks laid out scores of body bags.

Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, Ukrainian authorities said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that 138 of the passengers were connecting to a flight to Canada.

The Tehran-Toronto via Kyiv route was a popular one for Canadians of Iranian descent visiting Iran, in the absence of direct flights, and carried many students and academics heading home from the holidays.

The victims included a newlywed couple who had gone to Iran to get married. Arash Pourzarabi, 26, and Pouneh Gourji, 25, were graduate students in computer science at the University of Alberta. Four members of their wedding party were also on board.

At Kyiv’s main airport, candles and flowers were laid next to pictures of the deceased Ukrainian crew members.

It was Kyiv-based Ukraine International Airlines’ first fatal crash, and the carrier said it was doing everything possible to find the cause.

Ukraine said it was sending a team of experts to Iran to investigate. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had instructed Ukraine’s prosecutor general to open criminal proceedings, without specifying who they would involve.

Under international rules, responsibility for investigating the crash lies with Iran, and Trudeau said the foreign minister of Canada would talk to his Iranian counterpart to underline the need for a "thorough investigation." It was "dangerous to speculate" on the possible causes so early in the investigation, he added.