The latest on Iran plane crash

By Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Tara John and Caitlin Hu, CNN

Updated 4:23 a.m. ET, January 11, 2020
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6:54 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Large pieces of plane debris have been removed from Iranian crash site, says eyewitness

From Claudia Otto, Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Richard Quest in Beirut


An eyewitness told CNN that all the large debris pieces from Wednesday's downed flight have been cleared from the crash site near Tehran, which experts say is a highly unusual move so early on in an investigation.

Iranian police and Revolutionary Guard Corps are dispersing people who are “wandering around” the site, the eyewitness said. Looters are also on the scene, picking things up from the ground, they added.

The eyewitness told CNN that there were no police or security officers around on Thursday, describing the scene as "anarchy."

They said the situation on Wednesday, when the plane crashed, was more controlled as the site was cordoned off and police remained on location for hours after the incident.

According to CNN correspondent Richard Quest, it is highly unusual for a crash site to be cleared this quickly and without the presence of other accredited representatives. 

Normally, forensic officers from the major investigative bodies would be poring over the wreckage to see it in its natural state before removing it to a secure area. 

6:26 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Black box evaluation starts today, says Iran

From CNN’s Radina Gigova in Atlanta 

Emergency crews look at debris from the plane crash on January 8.
Emergency crews look at debris from the plane crash on January 8. Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The evaluation of the black boxes from the Boeing 737 that crashed near Tehran on Wednesday will begin today in Mehrabad Airport laboratory, according to the head of the Accidents Investigation Board of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

Hassan Rezaeifar said authorities are checking whether it would be possible to reconstruct and analyze the information from the flight data recorders, according to state news agency IRNA.

If Iranian authorities cannot download the data, they will get help from Russia, Ukraine, France or Canada, he said.

Those four countries have announced their readiness to download the black box information, Rezaeifar told reporters, according to IRNA.

This comes after the civil aviation authority said Thursday that the black boxes were damaged, so Tehran may need help decoding them.

5:53 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

France’s air accident agency will be involved in Iran crash probe

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Paris

France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) said Friday it will have a representative in the Iran air crash investigation.

“BEA has designated an accredited representative to the investigation as France is the state of co-design of the CFM engine,” a spokesman told CNN.

“We are not sending anyone to the site. No further assistance has been requested at this point in time”, he added.

5:48 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

It may take months to extract black box data, says Iranian aviation authority

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Wreckage from the plane is seen strewn across the crash site on January 8.
Wreckage from the plane is seen strewn across the crash site on January 8. Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It could take up to two months to extract data from the black boxes of the plane that crashed Wednesday, according to senior Iranian Civil Aviation Organization officials, who added that US officials must substantiate their claims alleging that the aircraft was hit by a missile.

“Twelve expert groups have been set up to investigate the crash and the information must be collected in order to come up with the final conclusion,” Ali Abedzadeh, the head of the Iran Civil Aviation Organization, said at a press conference in Tehran.

“So far what I can tell is the plane has not been hit by a missile, we have to look for the cause of the fire.”

Citing witnesses, Abedzadeh said the aircraft was on fire for more than 60 to 70 seconds. He also added that videos circulating that show an object hitting the aircraft cannot be confirmed scientifically. 

If there had been an explosion in the air, the plane would have scattered across a much larger area, Abedzadeh said, referring to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that was downed in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

“The aircraft targeted in Ukraine, you can see the pieces were scattered in a larger area,” he said.

That plane, however, was flying at nearly 33,000 feet, whereas the Boeing 737-800 in Wednesday's incident climbed to only around 8,000 feet before plunging to the ground.

Abedzadeh said US officials must substantiate their claims with technical evidence that the aircraft was hit with a missile, and they legally have to present it to the International Civil Aviation Organization. 

5:07 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

These newlyweds died together in the plane crash, a week after their wedding

From CNN's Christina Zdanowicz

 Amir Forouzandeh via CBC
 Amir Forouzandeh via CBC

The celebration of a new life together turned to loss when newlyweds died in the Tehran plane crash as they traveled home to Canada.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji tied the knot on January 1 in Tehran in front of their family and friends, according to CNN news partner CTV News.

A week later, they were two of the souls to lose their lives when a plane crashed in Iran Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians. The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed in Tehran minutes after takeoff.

The victims included the newlyweds, a family of four, a mother and her daughters, "bright students and dedicated faculty members," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

"They were basically the kindest souls that I knew," friend Amir Forouzandeh told CTV News. "Honestly, if you met them even once you could tell that these two belong together for sure."

Read the full story here.

4:18 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

UK Foreign Secretary calls for "full and transparent" investigation into Ukrainian plane crash

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca in Atlanta and Nada Bashir in London 

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called for a “full and transparent” investigation into the fatal crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight in Tehran on Wednesday, citing intelligence reports which claim the plane was shot down by Iranian surface to air missiles. 

"We urgently need a full and transparent investigation to establish what caused the crash," Raab said in a statement Friday, citing a "body of information" which suggests that the plane was "shot down by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile."

"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, including the four British nationals who lost their lives," the foreign secretary added. 

In response to the "heightened tensions" in the region, the UK Foreign Office has advised British nationals against all travel to Iran, and has also recommended against taking flights from and within Iran. 

3:43 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Ukraine says possibility plane was downed by missile not ruled out, but still unconfirmed 

From CNN’s Sebastian Shukla in Kiev and Radina Gigova in Atlanta 

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky said Friday the possibility that a missile downed a passenger plane over Iran is not ruled out, but currently it is not confirmed. 

"Given the recent statements by the leaders of the states in the media, we call on all international partners, especially the governments of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, to submit data and evidence relating to the disaster at the disposal of the commission of inquiry," Zelensky said in a statement. 

Zelensky also said he plans to to discuss the ongoing investigation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth,” Zelensky said. “We consider it the responsibility of the entire international community to address the families of the victims and the memory of the victims of the disaster.” 

“The value of human life is higher than any political motives, ” Zelensky added.

3:30 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority says black boxes will show true cause of Ukrainian airliner crash

From CNN's Radina Gigova

The head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority, Ali Abedzadeh, said Friday any suggestions a Ukrainian plane which went down over Tehran was hit by a missile should not be considered valid prior to analyzing the plane’s black boxes.

Abedzadeh reiterated Iran’s stance that the plane was not hit by a missile, while speaking at a press conference in Tehran.

Abedzadeh added the fact that Iran has invited all international partners to take part in the investigation shows Tehran's willingness for a transparent investigation and its confidence in the professionalism of the operations.

4:19 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

French foreign minister says US made "bad decision" in pulling out of Iran nuclear deal

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Paris 

John Thys, Pool Photo via AP
John Thys, Pool Photo via AP

Iran could have nuclear weapons in one or two years if the country continues to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French radio RTL on Friday.

"If they carry on with unraveling the Vienna agreement, then yes, in a short amount of time, between one or two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon," Le Drian said.

He added that the United States made a "bad decision" when it pulled out of the deal.

Le Drian said France was available to contribute its expertise to the Ukrainian plane crash probe, after the Boeing 737 went down over Tehran in what US officials think may have been a tragic accident involving Iranian anti-aircraft missiles.

"It is important to establish the truth in the most transparent conditions. France is available to contribute its expertise if necessary," Le Drian said.