Cargo plane crash in Iran kills 15, leaves 1 survivor

2019-01-14 22:42
An Iranian rescue works at the site of a Boeing 707 cargo plane crash, at Fath Airport, west of Tehran, Iran. (Hasan Shirvani, Mizan News Agency via AP)

An Iranian rescue works at the site of a Boeing 707 cargo plane crash, at Fath Airport, west of Tehran, Iran. (Hasan Shirvani, Mizan News Agency via AP)

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A decades-old Iranian Boeing 707 military cargo plane reportedly carrying meat from Kyrgyzstan crashed on Monday while trying to land west of Iran's capital, killing 15 people on board and leaving a sole survivor, authorities said.

The crash of the jetliner marked just the latest aviation disaster for Iran, which hoped to replace its aging fleet under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

But instead, US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the accord in May scuttled billions of dollars in planned sales by Airbus and Boeing Co. to the Islamic Republic, only increasing the danger for passengers in Iran planes.

The aircraft, which bore the paint scheme of the Iranian air force's Saha civilian airline, was making emergency landing around 08:30 on Monday at Fath Airport, an airfield controlled by Iran's powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The plane skidded off the runway, crashed through a perimeter fence and into a residential neighbourhood.

Iranian state television aired images of smoke-charred homes and the fuselage of the aircraft lying on the ground in the neighbourhood. Nearby was one of its land gear, torn away. Small fires burned around it.

The plane was meant to land at the nearby Payam International Airport, about 40km west of Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Authorities did not immediately offer a reason for the crew's decision to land there. Fath is some 10km southwest of Payam. Its runway is some 1 100m long, compared to Payam's 3 600m. In November, a commercial airline reportedly mistook Fath for Payam, but was able to abort its landing.

Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of the country's emergency medical services, said that of the 16 people on board the plane, only the flight engineer was known to have survived. Iranian media reported nine bodies from the crash had already been recovered.

Iran's air force said in a statement that the fate of the crew, including their possible "martyrdom", is under investigation. It wasn't immediately clear who owns the plane, though Gen. Shahin Taghikhani, an army spokesperson, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.

Iranians often use the word "martyrdom" for those who die in war or national service.

The plane reportedly was carrying a cargo of meat from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital, to Iran. Since 2016, Iran has been importing meat from Kyrgyzstan, usually via Saha. It imported 150 tons in 2016 and 350 tons in 2017.

Saha Airlines operated one of the world's last commercial flights of the Boeing 707, which was first manufactured in 1958 and helped usher in the jet age. The four-engine, narrow-body aircraft were built until 1979.

Maintenance information regarding the Boeing 707 that crashed Monday was not immediately available. However, Iran has struggled obtaining parts for its aging fleet of airlines, nearly all purchased during the time of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Saha Airlines' Boeing 707s suffered a previous fatal crash in April 2005, when a flight coming from the Kish island crash-landed at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, killing three passengers.

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