Today at 11.33 am a Tupolev belonging to Iran-based Caspian Air crashed near Qazvin, Iran about 140 kms from the capital Tehran, with 168 passengers and crew on board. The plane was heading to the Armenian capital of Yerevan and took off from Tehran only 16 minutes before the crash.
All aboard flight number 7908 were killed according to the first news coming from local TV stations.
It took a long time before anything has appeared on the official website of the airline, but the international website still shows no information about the crash. When we called the local representative of the carrier earlier today, we were the first to tell him about the accident.
The Tupolev TU-154M plane involved in the accident was built in 1987 and was originally delivered to Ariana Afghan Airlines. It is one of the four of the type that is operated by Caspian Airlines – which is a Russian-Iranian joint venture established in 1993. They have also been using a fifth one of the same type that was operated for them, by Aerotur Air. Reports suggest that the lost plane was registered as EP-CPG (shown on the image above). The local television channels showed a huge crater and debris spread around in in a wide area. According to a representative of Caspian Air there were mainly Iranian citizens onboard (29 of them were members of Iran’s some 100,000 ethnic Armenian community – many of whom frequently use the flights between Tehran and Yerevan to visit relatives in Armenia), with 40 Armenians (6 of them were Armenian citizens, the rest are Iranian citizens as mentioned) and two Georgian citizens also on the plane. Besides the 156 passengers there were 12 crew members working on the flight. It is unclear whether other nations were also involved in the crash, but a boarding card belonging to a Japanese citizen was found at the crash site, Iranian reports said. Among those on board were eight members of Iran’s national youth judo team, along with two trainers and a delegation chief, who were scheduled to train with the Armenian judo team before attending competitions in Budapest, Hungary on Aug. 6, Iranian state TV said.
There are no reports about potential death, or injury of anyone on the ground.
First eyewitness reports suggest that the plane’s tail was on fire and had circled in the air (probably trying to find an area available for emergency landing) before crashing in the ground, nose down. “Then, I saw the plane crashing nose-down. It hit the ground causing a big explosion. The impact shook the ground like an earthquake. Then, plane pieces were scattered all over the agricultural fields,” Ali Akbar Hashemi, a 23-year-old who was laying gas pipes in a nearby home, told the Associated Press by phone. This confirms the reports on the Aviation Herald website claiming that the pilot had reported a fire in the left engine mid-air, before quickly losing altitude and deviating to the left of the assigned flight path. This information has not been confirmed by any authorities yet. Based on the above mentioned footage of the area, the plane has practically been desintegrated into small pieces by the impact of the crash, and its broken parts have spread around in an area bigger than 200 square meters. The crater is about 10 meters in depth.
“I saw a finger of a passenger on the ground. There is no sign of the airplane, just small pieces of metal,” said a witness. “I do not see even a complete leg or arm.“ “The Tupolev plane has been totally destroyed and the corpses, unfortunately, have been totally burned and destroyed,” Qazvin police commander Massoud Jafarinasab told semi-official Fars News Agency.
Weeping relatives and friends gathered at Yerevan Airport where a notice on a wall listed people who were on board. Doctors treated relatives for shock and heart problems. (You can find the full list of the flight crew and the passengers in a comment added to this article below.)
The plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been found at the crash site, state television reported late Wednesday, so an explanation of the crash is likely to be found.