Boeing 737 Plane Bound for Ukraine Was on Fire Before It Crashed, Iranian Investigators Say

The plane crash in Iran early Wednesday morning killed all 176 people on board

Investigators are continuing to look into the mystery of what caused a Boeing 737 jet to crash in Iran on Wednesday morning, killing all 176 people on board.

According to the BBC, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization chief Ali Abedzadeh said that the plane — which was bound for Ukraine and went down shortly after takeoff — was “on fire” and crashed while it was attempting to return to the airport.

Abedzadeh reportedly added that the pilots had not made any distress calls before heading back to the airport.

“The plane, which was initially headed west to leave the airport zone, turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash,” Abedzadeh explained, the BBC reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Iranian officials have said that the plane likely crashed due to technical difficulties, but Ukrainian investigators aren’t ruling out other possibilities.

Ukraine International Airlines plane crashes

The New York Times reported that Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said that investigators were looking into the possibility that a missile shot down the jet, as well as the possibilities of a terrorist act, a collision with another airborne object, and an engine explosion.

However, a Ukrainian security official told the Journal that all theories were preliminary, and “too many things are unclear at the moment.”

Ukraine International Airlines, which operated Wednesday’s flight, told PEOPLE on Wednesday: “[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. 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
Ukraine plane crash. Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukraine International Airlines plane crashes
Mohammad Nasiri/AP/Shutterstock

The aircraft had 167 passengers and nine crew members on board according to preliminary data, the airline confirmed to PEOPLE on Wednesday. The flight left the Tehran International Airport around 6:00 a.m. local time and was bound for Ukraine.

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.

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.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, 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 came hours after the country launched missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops.

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