RIP to all. The confirmation came after a London-based global information firm reported Thursday that the plane, carrying 176 passengers and crew, likely was mistakenly shot down by an Iranian missile. No one survived the crash. “Photographs purportedly taken near the site of the crash and circulated on social media appear to show the guidance section of an SA-15 Gauntlet short-range, surface to air missile, which landed in a nearby garden,” the firm IHS Markit said in its report.
The firm said it could not confirm the authenticity of the photos but “assesses them to be credible.” Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. President Trump said on 9 January he found the crash suspicious and that “somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.”
In Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said that investigators were looking into claims that parts of a Russian-made, surface-to-air missile stocked by Iran had been found near the crash site.
The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, quickly moved to dispute any suggestion that it shot down Ukraine’s commercial airliner, according to Iran state media. The Fars News Agency, citing Abedzadeh, said its missiles were not capable of reaching that altitude. Abedzadeh characterized the suggestion as “scientifically impossible.”
In a preliminary crash report issued Thursday, Iran’s civil aviation authority said the plane’s crew never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back to the airport when the plane went down. The plane apparently suffered engine failure, Iranian officials said.
IHS Markit says publicly available air traffic data is “not consistent” with Iran’s claim. The firm says flight data shows a normal ascent until the plane disappears at 8,000 feet.
“This is consistent with a catastrophic incident onboard the aircraft,” the report said.
The report adds that “A pilot of an airliner that took off from Tehran airport shortly after UIA Flight 752 told an IHS Markit source that he watched the aircraft take off and then explode in midair.”
Iran authorities say they have recovered the audio and data recorders from the flight, but say they won’t allow Boeing or U.S. aviation officials access to the black boxes.
The evidence overwhelmingly points to a catastrophic event in midair, said Mary Schiavo, a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general. She said not only did the flight’s crew not send out a distress call, the plane itself has the capability to report any mechanical issues. It did not.
“It’s clear that the aircraft did not send any problem messages back to the airline,” she said, adding that “the aircraft did not turn around. Any turn that people saw was the aircraft falling from the sky.”
Iran attack: Iranian TV reports a different version of missile attack
CBS News, citing unnamed sources, reported that U.S. intelligence picked up signals of a radar being turned on, and that U.S. satellites also detected two surface-to-air missile launches shortly before the plane exploded. Federal officials were briefed on the intelligence Thursday, and a source who was in the briefing said it appears missile components were found near the crash site, CBS reported.
Newsweek, citing two Pentagon officials, said the plane was struck by an anti-aircraft missile. The officials told Newsweek the strike was likely accidental.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737–800 en route from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airpot to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, stopped transmitting data Tuesday just minutes after takeoff and not long after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq. The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials told Newsweek. One Pentagon and one U.S. senior intelligence official told Newsweek that the Pentagon’s assessment is that the incident was accidental. Iran’s anti-aircraft systems were likely active following the country’s missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.
CNN, citing multiple US. officials, also reported that the strike was likely an Iranian missile and accidental. The officials cited analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by U.S. military and intelligence.
In the military statement, Iran blamed “human error” for accidentally shooting down the passenger jet. The plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard, the statement added. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States. “In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future. It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.
Canadian Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne announced at a press conference Friday the creation of an international group of representatives to investigate the crash. The group will be made up of representatives from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ukraine, Canada and Afghanistan.
Iran has only two visas so far to representatives from Global Affairs Canada’s Standing Rapid Deployment Team and the Transportation Safety Board, Canadian Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne tweeted Friday. The representatives are currently in Ankara, Turkey, he said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said at a press conference on Friday in Kiev that Iran has fully cooperated with their investigation, and given them access to the plane’s black box, the Agence France-Presse reports. Prystaiko also said that Ukrainian experts have been given access to the plane’s fragments and the crash site. The debris from the crash had all but disappeared by Friday morning, when CBS News visited the site. “We’re analyzing the pieces of the body of the plane… We are analyzing the chemical residues on the body of the plane,” Prystaiko said. “We will come to our conclusions. We don’t want to come to them right now.” “We have so many different versions of what could happen to the plane that we will need some time to really understand and tell,” he said. “We have not even started to reconstruct the black box information yet. This is the most vital piece of information.”
Ukraine have been here before. A Malaysia Airlines jetliner was downed over eastern Ukraine in 2014, resulting in 298 deaths. The investigation showed it was destroyed by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from eastern Ukraine in an area held by pro-Russian rebels.
Ukraine became part of a four-nation team led by the Dutch that brought charges against four suspects after a five-year investigation. Those charged included three Russians and a Ukrainian.
Iran, too, has mourned military shootdowns of civilian jetliners. In 1988, the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iran Air jet over the Persian Gulf shortly after its takeoff from Tehran.
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard; Curtis Tate and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
The Ukraine International Airlines plane came down on Wednesday shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals, in a US drone strike.
“The PS752 “mistake” in Iran
U.S. VERSUS IRAN, THE CONFLICT TIMELINE. (Facebook)