Dozens of Canadians were among the 176 people killed when a passenger plane crashed just minutes after taking off from the Iranian capital’s main airport, Ukraine’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Vadym Prystaiko said 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians were on board the Ukraine International Airlines plane that was en route to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, when it crashed. The Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. There were also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones in this tragedy.” – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The airline released a list of the passengers, which includes years of birth, but not nationalities. The youngest person listed was born in 2016, while the oldest was born in 1950.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will work with its international partners to thoroughly investigate the cause of the plane crash. He said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Transport Minister Marc Garneau are reaching out to their international counterparts.
“I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens,” Trudeau said.
Garneau said on Twitter that Canada would offer technical assistance in the crash investigation.
“Our hearts are with the loved ones of the victims, including many Canadians. I have been in touch with the government of Ukraine. We will continue to keep Canadians informed as the situation evolves.” – Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne
Payman Paseyan, the past president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said 27 Iranian-Edmontonians were among the dead. However, that has yet to be confirmed with Global Affairs Canada. He also said he knew many of the passengers.
The number of Iranian-Edmontonians that perished in the #TehranPlaneCrash is now confirmed at 27.
— Payman Parseyan (@PParseyan) January 8, 2020
The crash of Ukraine International Airlines came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the three-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Ukrainian officials initially agreed, but later backed away and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is ongoing.
Paseyan said members of the community had found out about the crash while being glued to the news after the missile attack in Iraq.
“Many were expecting their friends and families members to come back … (and) were well aware what flight they were on,” said Paseyan, a former president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.
One person who knew a passenger on the plane had called him for more information.
“He called and said, ‘Hey, is there any chance there’s a second flight to Kyiv, this is a mistake? This can’t be real.’ He’s devastated.”
Paseyan said the news is difficult for an Iranian community that is already concerned about ongoing aggression between Iran and the United States.
“They were worried about their family members that were in Iran, and now this has compounded that with worry for the community,” he said.
Airline officials said most of the passengers were en route to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, transiting through there to other destinations.
“My heart is broken. We will have to go through this terrible pain together with our Canadian brothers and sisters. Ukraine is working with the Iranian authorities on the ground to identify the dead and help their families. Our deepest condolences to all those who lost their loved ones. It is devastating.” – Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko
Boeing issued a statement expressing sympathy for the casualties of a plane crash in Tehran and their families, calling it a “tragic event.”
“We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time,” Boeing said. “We are ready to assist in any way needed.”
The crash is one of the worst aviation disasters involving Canadians.
In 1985 a bomb exploded and killed 329 people aboard an Air India flight. Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to New Delhi exploded over the Atlantic Ocean near Great Britain on June 23, 1985. Most of the victims were Canadian.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crash, which comes amid increased tension in the region following the American assassination of a top Iranian general near Baghdad and retaliatory missile attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq.
However, the agency warned against any non-essential travel to Iran “due to the volatile security situation, the regional threat of terrorism and the risk of arbitrary detention.” The agency said Canadians, particularly those holding dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship, were at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained.
With files from The Associated Press