Iran’s aviation authority has said it will not hand over flight recorders from the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed moments after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew onboard, either to the aircraft’s manufacturer or US aviation authorities.
The statement was issued on Wednesday as the leaders of Ukraine and Canada, from which dozens of citizens died, vowed to identify the cause of the crash amid contradictory statements and swirling speculation.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin 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.”
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board. The Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. There were also 10 Swedish passengers, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals, he said.
The announcement by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation head, Ali Abedzadeh, followed the launch of an urgent inquiry into the crash by the Ukrainian government, which rowed back on an earlier statement ruling out a terrorist act.
The developments have fuelled uncertainty over the circumstances of the crash, which occurred hours after Iran had fired a volley of missiles at bases used by US forces in neighbouring Iraq, in retaliation for the assassination of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by the US.
Speaking after the black box flight recorders were found at the crash site, Abedzadeh said: “We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer and the Americans. It’s not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation.
“This accident will be investigated by Iran’s aviation organisation, but the Ukrainians can also be present during the incident’s investigation.”
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called for complete cooperation with any investigation and said the US was prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance in identifying the cause of the crash.
Journalists at the site described farmland covered with debris. The dead lay among shattered pieces of the aircraft, and their possessions – including a child’s electric toothbrush, a stuffed animal, luggage and electronics – were strewn across the site.
Iran’s insistence that it will not hand over the black boxes to Boeing comes amid claims that at least two aircraft which had been originally routed through Iranian airspace around the time of the Iranian missile attacks on the bases in Iraq were either told to turn around or redirected.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 disappeared from flight trackers a few minutes after its delayed takeoff from Tehran, apparently suffering a catastrophic incident that caused it to break up in flames over farmland outside the city with crew unable to issue a mayday alert.
Amateur video, allegedly capturing the plane’s final moments, appeared to show a brightly burning object in the sky, breaking into pieces before exploding in orange flames on the horizon.