TEHRAN, Iran — A locally built Iranian passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran on Sunday, killing 39 people and reviving questions about the safety of a cash-strapped aviation sector left hobbled by international sanctions.
President Hassan Rouhani offered his condolences to victims’ families and quickly ordered an investigation into the crash.
Similar planes operated by Iranian carriers will be grounded until the probe is complete, he directed.
The plane was based on a relatively obscure Ukrainian design that has been involved in previous Iranian air disasters.
The Sepahan Air regional airliner, bound for the eastern town of Tabas, went down in a residential area shortly after takeoff at 9:20 a.m. from Tehran’s Mehrabad airport.
State TV said the plane’s tail struck the cables of an electricity tower before it hit the ground and burst into flames. The official IRNA news agency said the plane suffered an engine failure.
Whatever the ultimate cause, quick thinking by the pilot may have saved some lives.
“We should be thankful to God that the pilot did all he could to steer the plane away from residential buildings and fortunately did not crash into them. Otherwise, we would have been dealing with a much worse crisis,” said Jalal Maleki, spokesman of Tehran’s Fire Department.