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Crash of Iran-built plane leaves 39 dead

Published:Monday | August 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Iranian rescue personnel inspect the site of a passenger plane crash near the capital Tehran, Iran, yesterday. - AP PHOTO

TEHRAN (AP):

A regional passenger plane assembled in Iran crashed yesterday while taking off from the capital, killing 39 and injuring another nine on-board, according to a senior transportation official and state media.

The Iran-140 operated by domestic carrier Sepahan Air crashed in a residential area near Tehran's Mehrabad airport. State TV said the plane's tail struck the cables of an electricity tower before it hit the ground and burst into flames. The official IRNA news agency said the plane suffered an engine failure before it went down.

Deputy Minister of Transportation Ahmad Majidi provided the casualty figures in an appearance on state TV. The channel earlier had reported that all 48 people on-board had died.

The crash happened shortly after the plane took off at 9:20 a.m. local time (0450 GMT), bound for the town of Tabas in eastern Iran.

Eyewitness Hassan Molla said he heard a roaring sound as the plane came in low overhead, one wing tilting.

"There was no smoke or anything. It was absolutely sound and in good condition" before the crash and what appeared to be multiple explosions, he said.

Members of the Revolutionary Guard worked to secure the crash site and security and rescue personnel combed the wreckage as onlookers gathered shortly after the plane went down. The plane's mangled but largely intact tail section was torn from the fuselage and came to rest on a nearby road.

State TV said the bodies of some of the victims were so badly burned that they could not be identified. They will be handed over to relatives after DNA tests are carried out to determine their identities, it said.

The Iran-140 is a twin-engine turboprop plane based on Ukrainian technology that is assembled under license in Iran. It is a version of the Antonov An-140 regional plane and can carry up to 52 passengers.

A similar plane crashed during a training flight in the city of Isfahan in February 2009, killing five on-board, according to a report by state-run Press TV at the time.

Lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti suggested yesterday that the earlier accident should have been a wake-up call.