Iranian airliner crashes near Tehran airport, 39 dead
Associated Press in Tehran
A regional passenger plane assembled in Iran crashed yesterday while taking off from the capital, killing 39 and injuring another nine onboard.
The IrAn-140 operated by domestic carrier Sepahan Air crashed in a residential area near Tehran's Mehrabad airport. State television said the plane's tail struck the cables of an electricity tower before it hit the ground and burst into flames. The official IRNA news agency said the plane suffered an engine failure before it went down.
Deputy Minister of Transport Ahmad Majidi provided the casualty figures in an appearance on state television. The channel had earlier reported that all 48 people onboard had died.
The crash happened shortly after the plane took off at 9.20am local time, bound for the town of Tabas in eastern Iran.
Witness Hassan Molla said he heard a roaring sound as the plane came in low overhead, one wing tilting.
"There was no smoke or anything. It was absolutely sound and in good condition" before the crash, he said, adding that he heard multiple explosions.
Members of the Revolutionary Guard secured the crash site and rescue workers combed the wreckage as onlookers gathered. The plane's mangled but largely intact tail section was torn from the fuselage and came to rest on a nearby road.
State telvision said the bodies of some of the victims were so badly burned that they could not be identified. They would be handed over to relatives after DNA tests were carried out, it said.
The IrAn-140 is a twin-engine turboprop plane based on Ukrainian technology that is assembled under licence in Iran. It is a version of the Antonov An-140 regional plane and can carry up to 52 passengers.
A similar plane crashed during a training flight in the city of Isfahan in February 2009, killing five onboard, according to a report by state-run Press TV.
Lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti suggested yesterday that the earlier accident should have been a wake-up call. "Lawmakers visited the production site of the plane and expressed concern about its [safety]," he told IRNA. "This company should have not been allowed to operate the plane to avoid such a bitter incident."