Mystery surrounds plane crash that killed 176 as Iran refuses to hand over black box

The crash came just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US bases in Iraq

Iran is refusing to hand over the black box of the Ukrainian jet which crashed today, killing 176 people, saying it would lead the investigation itself. Tehran says it will not hand over the crucial piece of equipment to the Americans. The black box will play a key role in determining what the cause of the crash was. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation head Ali Abedzadeh said: ‘We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer (Boeing) and the Americans’. He told Mehr news agency: ‘It’s not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation.’ All 167 passengers and nine crew on the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 flight from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were killed minutes after take-off at 6.10am local time (2.40am GMT) today.

Iran is refusing to hand over the black box to the manufacturer, Boeing, and the Americans

An engine lies on the ground after the crash (Picture: AFP)

It comes after the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran withdrew an earlier statement in which it claimed that ‘terrorism or a rocket attack’ had been ‘ruled out’ as a cause of the crash. Hours earlier, Iran had launched ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq where American troops are based in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. A new statement from the Ukrainian embassy said it was ‘too early to draw any conclusions about what had happened’. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against ‘speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe’ until official reports were ready. Following the crash of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, Iran said it had recovered the Boeing 737’s two black boxes.

Pieces of debris show what appear to be holes in the fuselage of the Boeing aircraft (Picture: Abolfazle Mahrokh/ISNA)

Personal belongings and debris are pictured scarted on the ground (Picture: AFP)

State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members were on board the aircraft operated by Ukraine International Airlines (Picture: AFP)

Abedzadeh said that based on global aviation rules, it was the right of the country where air crashes occur to carry out the investigation. He said: ‘This accident will be investigated by Iran’s aviation organisation but the Ukrainians can also be present during the incident’s investigation.’ Under the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, of which Iran, Ukraine and the United States are all members, air crash investigations are led by the country where the accident occurred.

Bodies of passengers are being carried from the site by search and rescue teams (Picture: Anadolu)

The Ukrainian airline crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff (Picture: Anadolu)

However, according to aviation experts, the countries that are capable of analysing black boxes are few – notably Britain, France, Germany and the United States. France’s Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA), which handles air crash investigations, said it had not received any request for help from the Iranian authorities after Wednesday’s crash. Three Britons are confirmed to be among the dead, according to authorities in Kyiv.

Iran launched ballistic missiles at US military bases in Iraq (Picture: AFP)

The Foreign Office said it is ‘urgently seeking confirmation’ of the British death toll, while the Ukrainian president has ordered a criminal investigation into the crash. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had ordered the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to open criminal proceedings. He said: ‘An investigation commission should be set up of representatives of the civil and aviation agencies responsible for civil aviation. We have to work out all the possible versions. ‘Regardless of the conclusions regarding the causes of the Iranian catastrophe, the airworthiness of the entire civilian fleet will be tested.’

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