Iran finds wreckage of crashed plane

Updated 2018-02-21 12:51:00 Xinhua

Iran's rescue and relief chief and a spokesman of the military both confirmed on Tuesday that the wreckage of a plane carrying 66 people on board have been found, two days after it disappeared from radar in a mountainous area.

The Aseman Airlines flight bound for Iran's southwestern city of Yasuj disappeared from the radar screen 50 minutes after takeoff from Tehran on Sunday. None of the 66 passengers and crews on board was believed to have survived.

Morteza Salimi, head of Rescue and Welfare Organization of Iran's Red Crescent Society, confirmed Tuesday that the wreckage of the ill-fated plane had been spotted by a military helicopter near the Nogol village at about 4,000 meters in the Dena mountain in central Iran's Isfahan province.

"The Revolutionary Guards' helicopters this morning found the wreckage of the plane on Dena mountain," Ramezan Sharif, spokesman of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) told state broadcaster IRIB on Tuesday.

The helicopter's pilot, identified as Soheli, told IRIB that he saw from above some large parts of the plane's fragmented pieces labeled with Aseman company's logo. He also said he saw "scattered bodies around the plane."

There have been conflicting messages as to whether the debris was located. The latest confirmation came one day after the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran (CAOI) denied media reports citing deputy governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province as saying the debris had been discovered Monday near Dengezlu village in Isfahan province.

The provincial emergency center in Isfahan and Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology, both said on Tuesday that the mobile phone of one of the passengers had remained on and sent out signals from the crash site.

Rescue teams, however, were previously unable to reach the scene due to bad weather and mountainous terrain. IRIB said some 100 rescue personnel were climbing to reach the location where the wreckage was found.

A CAOI official said that the pilot of the crashed jet had not declared a emergency situation and that the plane's emergency locator transmitter had not transmitted signals following the crash.

The plane, a twin-engined turboprop ATR-72, was built in 1993 and just returned to service three months ago after being grounded for six or seven years, according to media reports citing technical sources.

Iran has suffered a number of air disasters in past decades partly due to its aging planes still being used, especially on domestic routes.

Tehran blamed the United States for sanctions over its nuclear program that prohibit it from acquiring new aircraft.

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