Among those killed in the horrifying crash was San Diego college student Sara Saadat, who died alongside her sister and mother

By Robyn Merrett
January 11, 2020 12:50 AM

Iran is taking responsibility for the crash of the Ukraine plane that killed all 176 people on board.

On Saturday (local time), the Middle Eastern country revealed they shot down the Boeing 737 jet but claims it did so “unintentionally,” the Iranian military announced in a statement released on state TV, according to The New York Times.

The plane “took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target,” and claims it made an “unexpected turn” towards a sensitive military base, the statement said, NYT reports.

The statement continued explaining, “under these circumstances, because of human error [the plane] came under fire.”

The admission of guilt comes after 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.”

“[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 plane crash
| Credit: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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 flight left the Tehran International Airport around 6:00 a.m. local time, the airline confirmed to PEOPLE on Wednesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a press conference that once the plane was landed in Kyiv, Ukraine, more than 130 passengers were expected to change planes and head to Canada.

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 customers and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko confirmed in a tweet on Wednesday that 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals died in the crash.

Credit: Mohammad Nasiri/AP/Shutterstock

Among those killed was San Diego college student Sara Saadat, who died alongside her sister and mother.

Saadat was traveling back to the U.S. to resume classes at Alliant International University in Scripps Ranch, California. She was working toward her doctorate.

The San Diego university confirmed Sara’s death in a statement on Facebook, noting that Sara was returning from a trip to visit family in Iran when the tragedy struck.

“It appears that Sara was visiting family in Iran and was on her way back to San Diego to begin our spring 2020 term in our PsyD in Clinical Psychology program,” the school wrote. “We know that the entire Alliant community is affected when tragedy strikes any one of us, and we are here to provide support during these trying times.”