Passenger Plane Crash In Iran Kills 65, U.S. Sanctions Blamed

An Iranian passenger plane crashed into a mountain in the country’s southern region, resulting in the death of all people aboard.

The incident occurred on Sunday when the twin-engine turboprop ATR-72 plane was flying from Tehran to the southern city of Yasouj. Bad weather is suspected to have hindered the pilot’s visibility, causing the plane to crash into Mount Dena near the remote town of Semirom. All 65 people aboard were confirmed dead by Iranian authorities, USA Today reports.

Aseman Airlines confirmed 60 passengers, four crew, and one pilot were aboard when the plane crashed after taking off from Tehran, around 8 a.m. local time (EST Saturday, 11.30 p.m.). A person who missed his flight reportedly told reporters he was lucky, while a passenger who was aboard the plane sent his girlfriend a message for prayers, Fox News reported.

A blizzard in the region has hampered rescue operations, causing delays in extracting bodies and confirming the identities of the victims. The search was postponed late on Sunday.

“With the wind intensifying, and with snow, rain and darkness, it is not possible for rescue and relief teams to reach high altitudes and the search operation has been postponed until tomorrow,” an Iranian state broadcaster said, according to Geo TV. The search is expected to resume at dawn.

Iran’s state media has blamed U.S. sanctions for the crash. Iran has witnessed multiple airline crashes since the Iranian revolution, which was followed by repeated sanctions. The U.S.-Iran nuclear deal was expected to provide relief by allowing the purchase of a new fleet of planes. Deals have been signed with aircraft majors Airbus and Boeing for procurement. Press TV also hit out at Trump administration for not forging ahead with the nuclear deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an inquiry. Preliminary reports suggest reduced visibility led to the crash, though questions have also been raised about the aircraft’s fitness. According to The Guardian, the ATR-72 plane was grounded for years to undergo repairs and was only recently reintroduced into the fleet.

ATR-72 aircraft is a short-haul carrier manufactured in France. Aseman’s plane that crashed on Sunday was reportedly a two-decade-old aircraft. Of the airline’s fleet of six ATR-72, only three are said to be operational. The aircraft’s pilot, who died in the crash, Captain Hojjatallah Foulad, was described as a veteran with several thousand hours of flying experience.

Incidentally, the pilot had saved the lives of passengers, when in 2013, he made an emergency landing at Yasouj airport, Mehr News Agency reported. The plane he was flying then, also an ATR-72, suffered engine failure.