There were 167 passengers and nine crew members from multiple different countries on board the plane

By Helen Murphy
January 08, 2020 09:19 AM
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A plane carrying 176 people crashed in Iran early Wednesday morning shortly after take off, killing all on board.

According to preliminary data, the aircraft — a Boeing 737 jet — had 167 passengers and nine crew members on board and was operated by Ukraine International Airlines, the airline confirmed to PEOPLE. The flight left the Tehran International Airport around 6:00 a.m. local time and was bound for Ukraine.

“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims,” the airline said in the statement. “With immediate effect, UIA has decided to suspend its flights to Tehran until further notice.”

According to CNN, a tweet from Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said that 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals died in the crash.

“My sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all passengers and crew members,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky added in a Facebook post, according to CNN.

Ukraine International Airlines plane crashes
Credit: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukraine International Airlines plane crashes
Credit: Mohammad Nasiri/AP/Shutterstock

The cause of the crash remains unclear. The Washington Post reported that Iranian officials said the plane likely crashed due to mechanical difficulties, but the outlet also reported that the Ukrainian embassy in Iran later took down a statement concurring with that assessment and ruling out terrorism.

The embassy then issued a statement that said “any statements about the causes of the accident before the decision of the commission are not official,” according to the Post.

“[An] investigation will be conducted with the involvement of the aviation authorities of Ukraine, Iran, representatives of the Boeing manufacturer, the airline, and the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine,” Ukraine International Airlines said. “The airline will inform about the progress of the investigation and the causes of the tragic event as soon as they are identified.”

Ukraine International Airlines plane crashes
Credit: ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The plane involved in Wednesday’s crash was a Boeing 737-800 jet, not the Boeing 737 MAX plane that was was grounded in March 2019 after two fatal crashes in less than five months. According to Ukraine International Airlines, the aircraft involved in the crash was built in 2016 and its last scheduled maintenance took place on Monday.

The MAX 8, one of Boeing’s latest models, crashed in Ethiopia in March, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board. In October 2018, another MAX 8 went down in Indonesia. All 189 people aboard that flight, operated by Lion Air, died.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Boeing said: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”

The crash in Iran also came hours after the country launched missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops.