An engine problem may have been to blame for a Ukrainian plane crash near Tehran which killed all 176 people on board, intelligence officials say.
However five security officials, including one European, one Canadian and three Americans, told Reuters an initial assessment by western intelligence agencies had shown the jet suffered a technical malfunction.
The Canadian source, who did not want to be named, said there was evidence one of the jet’s engines had overheated.
However, the maker of the plane’s engines, French-US firm CFM, co-owned by General Electric Co and France’s Safran, said it was too soon to speculate about the cause of the crash.
Earlier on Wednesday, independent aviation operations experts said a “shootdown event” may have been the true explanation.
The Ukrainian embassy in Tehran initially attributed the crash to engine failure but later retracted the statement and instead said it was for an official commission to determine the cause.
Flight PS752 took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport at 06.12 local time [03.12 GMT], losing contact just two minutes later.
It came just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two bases used by American coalition forces in Iraq in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on Friday.
Airline officials said most of the passengers were on their way to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where they were planning to go on to other destinations.
There were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board, according to aviation authorities.
Among the victims were three Britons, 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians.
The British victims were named as engineers Sam Zokaei, from Surrey, Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi, from west London, and Mohammad Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh, from Brighton.
A newlywed Canadian couple, who had travelled to Iran to get married, were also on the plane with four members of their wedding party when it went down.
Iran has refused to hand over the plane’s black boxes – which contain key flight data and cockpit voice recordings – to US-based Boeing or US authorities.
Under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, investigations into air crashes are led by the country where the accident took place, in this case Iran, but other countries may be involved, including the country of the manufacturer.
Ali Abedzadeh, head of the Iran Civil Aviation Organisation, said it was unclear which country the black box would be sent to for investigation, although Ukraine is expected to be involved in the process.
The crash came after Boeing grounded its 737 MAX fleet after two crashes in 2018 and 2019. The 737-800 is one of the world’s most-flown models with a good safety record and does not have the software feature implicated in crashes of the 737 MAX.
Additional reporting by agencies
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