Strong evidence emerged on Thursday that the Ukrainian Air plane that crashed moments after taking off in Tehran Wednesday was shot down by the country’s military, presumably accidentally.
The New York Times also published a video that shows the plane, which Iran had claimed crashed due to technical difficulties, being struck by what appears to be a missile. The plane did not explode after it was hit; instead, it flew for several more minutes, attempting to return to Tehran’s airport before crashing into the ground, killing all 176 people onboard.
And CBS News reported Thursday that officials in the U.S. “picked up signals of the radar being turned on & satellite detected infrared blips of 2 missile launches.”
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Iranian authorities said the plane suffered engine failure, causing it to plunge to the ground just minutes after takeoff. But it didn’t take long for speculation to begin that the plane was shot down by an Iranian air-defense missile.
New York’s Jeff Wise explained why the official explanation raised doubts:
Engine malfunctions can certainly cause planes to crash but generally not in the manner observed with Flight 752. The wing, not the engine, is what keeps a plane in the air, and even if a plane loses power in all its engines, it can still glide for a considerable distance under pilot control (see: the Miracle on the Hudson). Even if an engine catches fire, the flight crew generally has time to respond.
Worth noting too is that Iran’s explanation came implausibly quickly, before officials had scarcely had a chance to pick through the still-smoldering debris.
At a White House event Thursday, President Trump said he didn’t buy the official explanation for the crash. “It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood, and somebody could have made a mistake,” Trump said. “Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question.”
Official investigations into the plane crash are ongoing and the Times reports that the National Transportation Safety Board will be a part of the probe. Previous reports suggested the NTSB would not be allowed to participate.
The plane, which was flying to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members. According to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, the victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, ten Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, three Britons, and nine Ukrainian crew members.