Thu, Jul 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Iranian plane crash kills all 168 aboard flight to Armenia

ATHLETES The Russian-built plane went down 16 minutes after take-off. Among the passengers were members of Iran’s junior national judo team

REUTERS , TEHRAN

A Tupolev passenger aircraft crashed in northwestern Iran yesterday on its way to Armenia and all 168 people on board were killed, Iranian media reported.

“On board the plane there were 151 adults, two children and 15 crew members,” Caspian Airline’s representative in Yerevan, Arlen Davudyan, said at Yerevan Airport.

“Fifteen or 16 minutes after take-off the plane fell near the Iranian city [of] Qazvin about 150 kilometers north of Tehran,” he said, adding it was a Tu-154 aircraft and that the cause of the crash was not clear and the black box had not yet been found.

The Caspian Airlines plane was carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew, Reza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for Iran’s aviation organization, told state television. The plane was traveling from Tehran to Yerevan, Armenia.

Crying relatives gathered at Yerevan airport and on one wall a notice listed people who were on board.

A senior Iranian provincial official, Sirous Saberi, said the aircraft had experienced technical problems and had tried to make an emergency landing.

“Unfortunately the plane caught fire in the air and it crashed,” he told semi-official Fars News Agency.

Television showed footage of debris from the plane and some body parts. Eight members of Iran’s national junior judo team and two coaches were among the dead, the semi-official Mehr News Agency said.

It was the third deadly crash of a Tupolev Tu-154 in Iran since 2002 and the deadliest crash in the Islamic Republic since 2003 when an Ilyushin Il-76, also Russian- built, crashed into a mountain.

“It’s been a major disaster with pieces of aircraft spread over an area of 200 square meters,” a fire brigade official told state TV.

“There was an explosion which left an indentation 10 meters deep in the ground. There was nothing we could do. We tried to put out the fire as best we could,” he said.

TV pictures also showed a large crater gouged into farmland with mangled pieces of metal scattered around. Smoke rose from the site as police and bystanders gathered around.

“The Tupolev plane has been totally destroyed and the corpses, unfortunately, have been totally burned and destroyed. All on board are dead,” Qazvin police commander Massoud Jafarinasab told Fars.

Caspian Airline’s Davudyan said around 20 to 25 passengers were Armenian citizens.

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