A Boeing 737-800 operated by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) has crashed today shortly after take-off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport, the airline has confirmed.

The aircraft was operating flight PS752 from Tehran to Kyiv when it disappeared from radar a few minutes after departure at 06:10am local time. 

UIA said that “according to preliminary data”, there were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board.

“UIA representatives are currently clarifying the exact number of passengers on board,” the airline said in an emailed statement to media, adding that passenger lists will be posted on the airline’s website after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.

“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims. With immediate effect, UIA has decided to suspend its flights to Tehran until further notice.”

The airline said it is now working to determine the cause of the accident and, at the same time, will be contacting the relatives of passengers to provide “all possible assistance in the current situation”.

The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in the Iranian capital when a fire struck one of its engines, said Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, according to an Associated Press report. The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

The Associated Press added that when its journalists reached the crash site they saw a wide field of field of debris scattered across farmland. The dead lay among shattered pieces of the aircraft. Rescuers in masks shouted over the noise of hovering helicopters as they worked.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, though state-media mentioned technical issues with the aircraft, and the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran said it has ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash and that preliminary information shows it was caused by an engine malfunction, according to CNN. 

UIA said the aircraft was built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer. The last scheduled maintenance of the aircraft took place on January 6, 2020, two days before the accident.

Not a Max

The aircraft that crashed is a 737-800 Next Generation, an older member of Boeing’s 737 family. The latest member is the B737 Max, which was involved in two fatal accidents within the space of five months and has seen Boeing contend with the worst crisis in its history, and that aircraft type is still grounded globally.

“We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” said Boeing in a Tweet.

UIA said: “Investigation will be conducted with the involvement of the aviation authorities of Ukraine, Iran, representatives of the Boeing manufacturer, the airline, and the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine. The airline will inform about the progress of the investigation and the causes of the tragic event as soon as they are identified.”

According to the Aviation Safety Network, this is Ukraine International Airlines’ first fatal accident in its operating history. The airline was founded in 1992.

For information about passengers who were onboard of flight PS752, UIA says you may contact it by phone: 0-800-601-527 (free for all calls within Ukraine); or for international calls: +38-044-581-50-19.