On the same early morning that Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at United States troops in Iraq, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, Iran, killing all 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. Iranian officials quickly declared that the Flight 752 disaster was caused by mechanical failure in the aircraft. But in an article published Wednesday, a veteran aviation and science journalist suggested the crash may have had a different cause.
The plane may have been “accidentally shot down by an Iranian air-defense missile,” wrote Jeff Wise, in a New York Magazine report. Though Wise stated that “it’s far too early to say with any certainty” what led to the Flight 752 tragedy, the possibility of a shootdown “makes more sense” than the initially stated cause of “engine failure.”
“It Sure Looks Like the Ukrainian 737 May Have Been Accidentally Shot Down in Iran,” Wise titled his article.
According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, “Western intelligence agencies” have seen “no signs” that the Boeing 737-800 was downed by a missile. But the Reuters report — based on “a Canadian security source” — gave no details on what supposedly led the intelligence agencies to quickly rule out the possibility of an accidental missile strike.
Of the 167 passengers killed in the crash, 63 were Canadian, who were set to catch a connecting flight to Toronto from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, which was the destination of Flight 752.
نخستین ویدئو از سقوط هواپیمای اوکراینی اطراف شهریار pic.twitter.com/M3bZiLLryQ— خبرگزاری ایسنا (@isna_farsi) January 8, 2020
A video released by the Iranian Students’ News Agency showed what they said was the first video of the plane bursting into flames in the sky and crashing to the ground.
But, according to Wise, the video’s footage may not be consistent with the initial Iranian explanation of “engine failure.”
“The wing, not the engine, is what keeps a plane in the air,” Wise wrote, explaining that even planes that lose engine power can glide for a considerable distance — even if an engine catches fire. Wise also said that the Iranian declaration of “engine failure” behind crash was issued “implausibly quickly,” before investigators could have had a chance to closely examine the plane’s wreckage.
In addition, Ukrainian officials who initially supported the Iranian claim of “engine failure” quickly backtracked, saying that ascribing a cause to the disaster was premature.
Both “black box” flight data recorders were recovered from the crash site, but according to a Guardian newspaper report, Iranian officials have refused to turn the recorders over to Ukrainian investigators or to Boeing.
“It is plausible, however, that Iranian air-defense forces would have been on high alert,” Wise wrote in his New York Magazine piece, due in part to threats by Donald Trump to bomb civilian sites in Iran in response to any attack by the country against Americans. The country’s capital city of Tehran would be “an obvious target,” Wise wrote.
Wise has also investigated the still-unsolved 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and has authored a book about the mystery, entitled The Taking of MH370.