Iran finds plane wreck in Zagros mountains

Tehran: Iranian search teams found the wreckage on Tuesday of a plane that went missing in the Zagros mountain two days earlier with 66 people on board, a spokesman said. Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared from radar as it flew over the Zagros range on Sunday morning, around 45 minutes after taking off from Tehran. After two days of heavy snow and fog, the weather finally cleared on Tuesday morning, giving helicopter teams better visibility.
“The Revolutionary Guards’ helicopters this morning found the wreckage of the plane on Dena mountain,” spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state broadcaster IRIB.
Footage from the helicopter showed a glimpse of the wreckage in deep snow high up on Dena mountain which forms part of the Zagros range.
A pilot told IRIB he had seen “scattered bodies around the plane” and that it was located in Noghol village, at around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet). But the steep terrain made it impossible to land and officials warned there was only a small window of time before bad weather returned later on Tuesday. Kioumars Heydari, commander of the army ground forces, told IRIB, they were hoping ground teams would reach the site within two hours.
“They are equipped to carry bodies on snow.
If the weather allows, they are also prepared to transfer the bodies by air, but I’ve been told that it’s not possible for helicopters to land in the region,” he said.
The Revolutionary Guards said drone images had helped locate the wreckage before two air force helicopters were dispatched.
Around 100 mountaineers have been making their way up the peak since Monday. “Last night, a number of people stayed on the mountain and through coordination with local guides managed to search all crevices,” Mansour Shishefuroosh, head of a regional crisis centre, said. The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service since 1993, flew early on Sunday from the capital’s Mehrabad airport towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south.
A team of crash investigators from French air safety agency BEA had been due to arrive in Iran on Monday, but Iranian officials said they were now due later on Tuesday.
The incident has reawakened concerns over aviation safety in Iran, which has been exacerbated by international sanctions over the years.
Aseman Airlines was blacklisted by the European Commission in December 2016. It was one of only three airlines barred over safety concerns — the other 190 being blacklisted due to broader concerns over oversight in their respective countries. Iran has complained that sanctions imposed by the
United States have jeopardised the safety of its airlines and made it difficult to maintain and modernise ageing fleets.
Aseman was forced to ground many of its planes at the height of the sanctions due to difficulties in obtaining spares.
In a working paper presented to the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2013, Iran said US sanctions were blocking “the acquisition of parts, services and support essential to aviation safety”. — AFP