Iran plane crash: burning Boeing was trying to turn back, say Tehran investigators

The crew of the Ukrainian plane that crashed, killing all 176 people on board, never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back to the airport when the plane went down, Iranian investigators have said.

The three-year-old jet, which had its last scheduled maintenance on Monday, encountered a technical problem shortly after take-off, said a report issued on Thursday.

Iran’s civil aviation authority made the comments in a preliminary report a day after the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed.

The investigators said the plane was engulfed in flames before it crashed. They said the crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because it had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine.

The report also confirmed that both of the so-called black boxes that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane had been recovered, though they had been damaged and some parts of their memory was lost. Iran’s aviation authority has previously said it will not hand over flight recorders either to the aircraft’s manufacturer or US aviation authorities.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said crash investigators from his country had arrived in Iran to assist in the probe. He said he planned to call Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, about the crash and the investigation.

The priority for Ukraine was to identify the cause of the plane crash, Zelenskiy said, a sentiment echoed by the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said: “Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that … [the crash] is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said on Wednesday that there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board.