Airliner crashes in Iran killing 168 - Middle East - World - The Independent

Airliner crashes in Iran killing 168

Jet catches fire in latest tragedy to hit nation struggling with sanctions

A passenger airliner crashed in Iran yesterday on its way to Armenia, after catching fire mid-air and plunging into farmland, killing all 168 people on board just 16 minutes after take-off.

In the worst crash in Iran for six years, the Caspian Airlines plane left only scattered bits of incinerated metal and fragments of the bodies of 153 passengers and 15 crew around a deep smoking crater in the ground. The Russian-built Tupolev aircraft, travelling to Armenia's capital Yerevan from Tehran, crashed near the north-western city of Qazvin shortly before noon local time.

Eight members of Iran's national junior judo team and two coaches were among the dead as well as a former Iranian MP representing Iran's Armenian minority and, reportedly, the wife of the head of Georgia's diplomatic mission in Iran.

"I saw a finger of a passenger on the ground. There is no sign of the airplane, just small pieces of metal," said a Reuters witness. "I do not see even a complete leg or arm."

Weeping relatives and friends gathered at Yerevan airport where a notice on a wall listed people who were on board. Six Armenian and two Georgian citizens were on board, the deputy head of the Armenian civilian aviation authority, Arsen Poghosyan, told a media briefing at Yerevan airport. Two crew and 29 passengers were Iranian citizens with ethnic Armenian backgrounds, he said. Iran is home to some 100,000 ethnic Armenians, many of whom frequently use the flights between Tehran and Yerevan to visit relatives in Armenia.

Fina Karapetian, an Armenian in her 30s, said her sister and two nephews, 11 and six, were on board. "What will I do without Armen and Vahe?" she said, before fainting.

The Qazvin police commander told the semi-official Fars news agency: "The Tupolev plane has been totally destroyed and the corpses, unfortunately, have been totally burnt and destroyed."

A local official said the aircraft had technical problems and tried to make an emergency landing. "Unfortunately the plane caught fire in the air and it crashed," he told Fars. Another witness told the state broadcaster Irib that he had seen the plane's left engine on fire in the air. But state radio said the pilot had made no mention of any technical problem in a taped conversation with a control tower.

"It's been a major disaster with pieces of aircraft spread over an area of 200 square metres," a fire brigade official said. "There was an explosion which left an indentation 10 metres deep in the ground. There was nothing we could do. We tried to put out the fire as best we could."

An official from Georgia's embassy in Yerevan was on board and the wife of the head of its diplomatic mission in Tehran, Gocha Gvaramadze, was also believed to be on the plane.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered an inquiry into the crash. Air safety experts have said Iran has a poor record, with a string of crashes – many involving Russian-made aircraft. US sanctions against Iran have prevented it from buying new aircraft or spares from the West, forcing it to supplement its ageing fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes with old Soviet aircraft.

It was the third time a Tupolev Tu-154 has crashed in Iran since 2002 and the deadliest crash since 2003 when an Ilyushin Il-76, also Russian built, crashed. Tehran-based Caspian Airlines was set up in 1993 and flies an all-Tupolev fleet linking Iranian cities and also routes to the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine and Armenia.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Teaching Assistants urgently r...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:We are looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the UK ...

KS1 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 Teacher - Gloucest...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week