Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Vice President for Flight Operations Igor Sosnovsky said on Wednesday that there is no evidence to suggest the highly experienced crew of UIA Flight PS752 made a fatal error that could have caused the plane to crash on the outskirts of Tehran on Tuesday night, minutes after takeoff and a few hours after Iran launched missiles at two Iraqi bases.
“There is evidence to date that the plane has gained 2,400 meters altitude, so the probability of crew error is minimal. We simply do not assume this, taking into account their experience,” Sosnovsky said.
“Given the complexity of the route and flight duration, the crew was reinforced,” he continued. “They had a rest at a hotel before takeoff. Being aware that Tehran is not an easy airport, our preparations for the entire flight crew over the past few years have been carried out exclusively at Tehran airport.”
“Also, there were six cabin crew – brilliant young girls and boys. May they rest in peace,” Sosnovsky concluded.
All nine crew members were killed in the crash, along with 167 passengers. The BBC mournfully noted that one of the crew members, 28-year-old Valeriia Ovcharuk, had a penchant for posting photos of herself in all of the far-flung destinations her job brought her to.
“The only thing that the pilot managed to do was steer the plane towards a soccer field near here instead of a residential area back there. It crashed near the field and in a water canal,” an eyewitness said, suggesting heroic actions by the pilot in his final moments.
BBC correspondents posted onlooker video of the plane burning in the sky and descending to become a fireball on the horizon. One of them remarked that “Iran is having a really dark day,” rather than noting that Iran was causing a really dark day by launching rockets at Iraq and staging a propaganda funeral for slain terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani that got dozens of Iranians killed in a stampede:
Horrific vid of the Boeing 737 of #Ukraine airline w/ 180 passengers burning in the sky & crashing just outside of #Tehran mins after taking off. #Iran is having a really dark day. Over 60 killed in the stampede, then scare of an all out war and now this. pic.twitter.com/Qvtf5hdwkg https://t.co/OGz90NdeH0
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) January 8, 2020
Aerial footage of the crash site emerged after sunrise.
— Aviation Newsroom (@Aviation_NewsTW) January 8, 2020
Other statements from UIA described the Boeing-737-800 as “one of the best planes we had” and pointed out that it received scheduled maintenance on Monday.
“There were no concerns on equipment. The aircraft passed its latest inspection on January 6. It was in good condition,” said UIA President Yevgeny Dykhne.
Iranian officials said the plane’s engine caught fire in flight and the aircraft went down after the pilot lost control, an account initially accepted by the Ukrainians, although Ukrainian officials withdrew that endorsement on Wednesday morning pending the outcome of a full investigation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday announced the creation of a crisis team to assist in the investigation and recover bodies from the crash site. He offered his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
Terrible news from the Middle East. This morning, after departing from Tehran International Airport, a UIA passenger plane crashed near the airport. According to preliminary reports, all 167 passengers and crew of 9 members died. Sincere condolences to family and friends.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 8, 2020
“Our priority is to find the truth and everyone responsible for this tragedy,” Zelensky added on Facebook.
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed its condolences and sympathy to the Ukrainian people on Wednesday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk advised reporters not to speculate idly on the cause of the crash, but he refused to rule out malevolent causes. Ukrainians have experience with such horrors after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by pro-Russian separatists in 2014. A trial for the three Russians and one Ukrainian charged with the MH17 attack is scheduled to begin in March.
“The events you are talking about, they unfolded yesterday and overnight. As of yesterday, there were no prerequisites to believe that this coincidence or these events would occur,” Honcharuk said, responding to questions about why Flight PS752 was allowed to take off so soon after Iran committed acts of war against Iraq and the United States.