Western intelligence agencies believe that a Ukrainian plane that crashed Wednesday in Iran suffered a technical malfunction and was not shot down, the Reuters news agency reported.
The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed less than three minutes after taking off from Tehran’s airport, killing 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians.
The report quoted five unnamed security sources — three American, one European and one Canadian — as saying the initial assessment is that Tehran’s explanation is accurate. The Canadian source was quoted as saying there was evidence one of the aircraft’s engines had overheated.
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire erupted in one of its engines and the pilot lost control of the plane, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. The news report did not explain how Iranian authorities knew that.
The pilot apparently couldn’t communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight, said Hassan Razaeifar, the head of the air crash investigation committee. He did not elaborate.