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Sixty-three Canadians were among the 176 people killed in a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane crash, just minutes after taking off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport in Iran.
The flight – UIA Flight 752 – crashed less than four minutes after takeoff, and according to data on flightradar24.com, rose to an altitude of 7,925 feet before it suddenly ceased broadcasting its coordinates.
According to Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian minister of Foreign Affairs, on board with the 63 Canadians were 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals.
Both Ukrainian and Iranian officials have said they suspect a mechanical issue caused the Boeing 737-800 to come down, though Iran will not hand over the black box from the wreckage to the U.S.
The crash comes on the heels of an Iranian overnight strike against U.S. military bases in neighbouring Iraq, and among heightened tensions in the area, though officials have said the crash is not at all related to the geopolitical strain in the Middle East.
The airline has said in a statement that there was seemingly nothing wrong with the aircraft before taking off from Tehran and its last service date was on Jan. 6, 2020 – only two days before the tragic event.
“It was one of the best planes we had, with an amazing, reliable crew,” said Yevhen Dykhne, president of UIA.
The Boeing 737-800 was manufactured in 2016, handed directly to the airline by the OEM and was one of 24 737-800 aircraft in UIA’s fleet of 42 total aircraft.
Boeing sent out a tweet on Wednesday morning, offering condolences and co-operation with UIA following the tragedy.
“This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families,” the tweet read. “We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”
On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement: “This morning, I join Canadians across the country who are shocked and saddened to see reports that a plane crash outside of Tehran, Iran, has claimed the lives of 176 people, including 63 Canadians.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones in this tragedy. Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered,” he continued.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) also issued a statement on Wednesday, in which it offered its condolences but also announced that pursuant to international agreements, due to the Canadian fatalities, the TSB would be sending an expert to monitor the progress of the crash investigation.
Moving forward, investigators from both Ukraine and Iran will be working together to help determine the cause of the accident, though there is no evidence at this stage to make any definitive conclusions. According to the BBC, a former air crash investigator said, “Any suggestion of engine failure feels premature. The possibility can’t be ruled out at this early stage, but an airliner such as the Boeing 737-800 is designed to keep flying if there is an engine failure.”
After the accident, and amongst the tensions in the Middle East, Transport Canada issued a travel advisory urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel in Iran.