Canada seeks thorough probe of Iran plane crash

Rescue teams recover debris from a field after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 people crashed near Tehran airport in January (AFP Photo/-)
Rescue teams recover debris from a field after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 people crashed near Tehran airport in January (AFP Photo/-)

Ottawa (AFP) - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Canada would demand a thorough investigation after scores of its citizens died when a Ukrainian jetliner crashed in Iran.

The Iranian community in Canada was plunged into mourning following the accident shortly after the plane took off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all on board.

"I join Canadians across the country who are shocked and saddened to see reports that a plane crash outside of Tehran, Iran, has claimed the lives of 176 people, including 63 Canadians," Trudeau said in a statement.

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the ex-Soviet country's privately owned flag carrier, said flight PS752 left Tehran airport at 6:10 am and disappeared from radars just two minutes later.

"Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians' questions are answered," Trudeau said.

According to Ukraine, 82 Iranians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons were on the Boeing 737 in addition to the Canadians. Eleven Ukrainians -- including the nine crew -- were also on board.

Canada is home to a large Iranian diaspora and UIA offers relatively inexpensive flights between Toronto and Tehran, with a layover in Kiev.

"One of my friends, his wife, and his two young girls were killed," Payman Parseyan, from Edmonton, told Canada's national broadcaster CBC.

"It's devastating," he said.

"Every one of our community members was touched in one way or another... Many of these people were international students. They didn't have their families here.

"Many of them gave up a life that they had in Iran, the people that they knew. They worked tirelessly to get to where they were, all to lose it like this. It's terrible."

The crash came with regional tensions heightened over the US killing of a top Iranian general, and shortly after Tehran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing US troops.

There was no immediate indication of foul play and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned against speculating on the cause of the disaster.

Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had been in touch with the government of Ukraine, and was speaking to "relevant authorities and to international partners."

He added that Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau was working with officials from Transport Canada and contacting international counterparts.

Search-and-rescue teams were combing through the smoking wreckage of the flight, which slammed into farmland at Khalaj Abad, in Shahriar county, but officials said there was no hope of finding anyone alive.