Iran locates wreckage of crashed passenger plane that killed 66 people

Leigh Mccormick
February 21, 2018

The hunt for a plane that went missing in Iran's Zagros mountains resumed for a third day on Tuesday with better weather raising hopes for the search and rescue teams.

Aseman Airlines is a semi-private air carrier headquartered in Tehran specializing in flights to remote airfields across the country.

Helicopters are unable to land in the mountainous terrain, and the work to find bodies will have to be carried out on foot, an emergency service official said.

State television aired footage showing the plane crash site against the side of a snow-covered mountain near Yasuj, some 780 kilometres south of Tehran, Iran's capital from which the Aseman Airlines flight took off on Sunday.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the site, IRNA news agency reported.

"Little by little they have reached the area and are collecting bodies", Shahin Fathi, from Iran's Red Crescent, told state TV.

Snowmobiles were deployed earlier on the 4,409-metre (14,465-foot) peak, where more than 100 mountaineers have also been aiding the search.

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The wreckage was finally spotted by a military drone, Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif said.

"Last night, a number of people stayed on the mountain and through coordination with local guides managed to search all crevices", Mansour Shishefuroosh, head of a regional crisis center, told the ISNA news agency.

The incident has reawakened concerns over aviation safety in Iran, which has been exacerbated by global sanctions over the years.

The chopper pilot who found the wreckage says the crash could be avoided if the plane was flying only 50 metres higher.

Aseman Airlines was blacklisted by the European Commission in December 2016.

Following the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with world powers that lifted worldwide sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear enrichment programme, Iran is allowed to purchase airplanes and airplane parts and has made deals worth tens of billions of dollars for new aircraft.

But figures from the Flight Safety Foundation, a US-based NGO, suggest Iran is nonetheless above-average in implementing ICAO safety standards. The production of Boeing 727, the three-engine jet ended in 1984.

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