Iranian Plane Crashes, All 168 on Board Believed Dead

TEHRAN (RPRN) 7/15/2009–Iranian state media say a passenger plane has crashed in northwestern Iran, killing all 168 people on board. State television said Wednesday the Iranian airliner was heading to the Armenian capital of Yerevan when it went down near the northern Iranian city of Qazvin.  Media reports say the plane crashed 16 minutes after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Video footage shows a field littered with small pieces of smoking wreckage from the Caspian Airlines plane.

Officials say the plane was carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew members.

Caspian Airlines is a Russian-Iranian joint venture that was founded in the early 1990s.

Iran has frequent plane crashes, often due to poor maintenance of aging planes.

In the past, Tehran has blamed its plane problems, in part, on U.S. sanctions that it says prevent Iran from getting spare parts.  But Caspian airliners are Russian-made planes, so U.S. sanctions would not have the same effect on aircraft maintenance.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Photo credit: Image made from television broadcast by Iran’s Press TV, shows a deep trench into an agricultural field caused by the impact of a crashed Iranain passenger plane that crashed in northwest Iran, 15 Jul 2009, courtesy of VOA News.