Passengers of downed Ukrainian plane in ‘state of panic’ before attack: Official

Rescue teams at the scene of downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 in Tehran. (Photo: AFP)

Passengers on the downed Ukrainian flight over Iran were in a state of “panic” before the plane was hit by missiles from the Iranian military in January, according to a Ukrainian forensics head.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on January 8, killing all 176 onboard. Iran admitted to downing the plane after days of denying responsibility and insisting the plane crashed due to a “technical failure.”

The passengers were out of their seats when the plane was hit with two missiles, Ukrainian forensics head Alexander Ruvin from the Kyiv Research Institute of Forensics told the Ukrainian newspaper Glavcom last week.

Some have speculated that Iran may have fired not two, but three missiles at the plane.

Ruvin said the plane had not risen to a high enough altitude that allows passengers to take off their seatbelts. If the passengers were fastened, as they should have been, they would have fallen to the ground with their seats, he said.

“We saw the corpses of the dead lying on the ground, without seats,” Ruvin, a member of the investigation team sent from Ukraine to Iran, said.

Photos of the victims are seen before the start of a memorial service for the Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 victims, at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton, Canada, on January 12, 2020. (AFP)

Photos of the victims are seen before the start of a memorial service for the Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 victims, at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton, Canada, on January 12, 2020. (AFP)

“What we saw in Iran means that there was already panic on the plane. There is reason to believe that it was burning inside and through the holes, black smoke came out,” he added.

It is unclear what could have caused the state of panic on the plane referred to by Ruvin that made passengers get out of their seats.

Reports emerged at the time that authorities bulldozed the crash site in Iran of the plane. Iran immediately removed all parts of the plane from the crash site, said Ruvin.

Iran took mobile phones and tablets which belonged to the passengers and crew members, he added.

Authorities may have confiscated the electronic gadgets out of fear that a passenger had documented what went on in the plane in the final moments before crashing, Iranians on social media speculated.

Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Tehran University on January 14, 2020. (Photo: AP)

Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Tehran University on January 14, 2020. (Photo: AP)

Iran repeatedly blocked the Ukrainian team from investigating the crash site, Ruvin said.

Iran has yet to hand over the black boxes from the downed plane for analysis.

The spokesman for the Iranian parliament's legal and judicial committee Hassan Norouzi said last month that the IRGC did “well” by downing the Ukrainian plane. Contrary to official claims, no arrests have been made in relation to the incident, he said.

The families of the victims recently launched a petition urging foreign airlines to not fly over Iranian airspace until the Islamic Republic allows for a credible investigation into the downing of the plane.

Protests erupted in several Iranian cities after Iran admitted to downing the plane. Dozens of people were arrested in connection with the protests.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 27 May 2020 KSA 19:57 - GMT 16:57
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