Emergency and rescue helicopter searches for the plane that crashed in a mountainous area of central Iran, February 19, 2018. (Reuters)

February 20, 2018

Iran announced on Tuesday that it had located the crashed passenger plane two days after it disappeared from radar over mountainous terrain.

The Aseman Airlines flight from Tehran disappeared on Sunday, 50 minutes into its journey to the southwestern city of Yasuj. A military spokesman said it had crashed into a mountain.

Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai told state TV that all on board Flight EP3704 were killed. The plane had 59 passengers and six crew members, the state-run IRNA news agency reported late Sunday, lowering the initially reported death toll of 66.

The twin-engined turboprop ATR 72 was over 24 years old. According to data cited by the Flight Safety Foundation’s aviation-safety.net website, it had been restored to service just three months ago after being in storage for six years.

The wreckage was finally spotted by a military drone, Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif said. The semi-official Tasnim news agency cited the military as saying Russia had helped locate the crash site.

“Two helicopters were sent to the coordinates that the drone had located, and found the wreckage,” told state television.

“The plane had hit top of the mountain before crashing 30 meters (yards) further down.”

Press TV broadcast footage of a helicopter joining the search and showed ambulances and rescue vehicles preparing to reach the site on Mount Dena, which is about 4,400 meters (14,400 feet) tall. The site is reportedly at a height of 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).

Glacial temperatures and mountainous terrain hampered search and rescue efforts, adding to the grief and anger felt by families of the victims and wider society in a country that blames decades of sanctions for the poor state of its planes.

After a long wait to locate the plane, families will have to endure further delays until the bodies of their loved ones are returned as helicopters are unable to land in the hostile terrain and the work will have to be carried out on foot, an emergency service official said.

More than 100 people demonstrated outside a local government office in Dena Kooh county on Monday, demanding officials step down for their handling of the disaster after announcements that wreckage had been found on Monday were then denied.

A video on Tasnim showed an angry man shouting at Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi: “Would you have flown on the same plane?”

Reza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said a seven-member delegation from France is to arrive in Tehran to investigate the cause of the crash, the official IRNA news agency reported. Jafarzadeh said the delegation includes four officials from French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR.

Iran has suffered several plane crashes in the past few decades. Tehran blames US sanctions for preventing it from importing new aircraft or spare parts.

A deal with world powers on Iran’s nuclear program has lifted some of those sanctions, opening the way for Iranian airlines to update their fleets but many older planes are still in service, particularly on domestic routes.

Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.