Latest pictures and video: Deadly plane crash kills 176 in Iran
Most of those on Boeing 737 crash were headed to Canada via Kyiv
A Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed near the Iranian capital on Wednesday local time, killing all 176 passengers and crew, including 63 Canadians.
The passenger jet crashed mere minutes after takeoff from Tehran's main airport.
Victims from several countries
On board Flight PS752 were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, said Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko. There were also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals, he said.
A total of 138 passengers on the flight were connecting to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday evening. They included newlyweds, families and many international students.
WATCH | Trudeau offers his condolences to families of UIA crash victims:
"Canadians have questions and they deserve answers," Trudeau said, vowing to make certain the crash is thoroughly investigated.
Plane was en route to Kyiv
Airline officials said most of the passengers were heading to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Staff at Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv told The Associated Press that passengers on this flight are usually Iranian students returning to school after winter holidays.
Nine of the 11 Ukrainians killed were members of the flight crew and included the pilot, the first officer, an instructor and six flight attendants, the BBC reported. A makeshift memorial honouring the nine was erected at Boryspil airport.
Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) said it had indefinitely suspended flights to Tehran after the crash, and the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, ordered an inspection of all civil airplanes in Ukraine.
WATCH | Relatives, colleagues and travellers at Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv pay their respects at a memorial to the flight crew killed on Flight PS752:
Cause still unknown
UIA also said it is working to confirm the cause of the crash of the 3½-year-old Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with the airline's president calling it "one of the best planes we had." The crash occurred only hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers.
Iranian officials, however, have said they suspected a mechanical issue brought the plane down. Ukrainian officials initially agreed, but have since backed away and declined to offer a cause while the investigation continues.
U.S. intelligence officials have said there was no immediate evidence it was shot down.
WATCH | Workers remove plane debris at the crash site:
Thought Americans had attacked
The crash comes at a time of heightened tension in the region. On Jan. 3, the U.S. killed Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds force within Iran's Revolutionary Guard, in a drone attack. The Iranians vowed revenge, and early on Jan. 8, launched a missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq.
A man who lives near the site of the UIA crash said he had been watching news coverage of the Iranian missile strike when he heard "a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake."
"At first I thought [the Americans] have hit here with missiles and went in the basement as a shelter," Din Mohammad Qassemi told The Associated Press. "After a while, I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there. Body parts were lying around everywhere."
WATCH | Islamic Republic of Iran News Network footage of burning plane debris at the crash site:
Pilot lost control
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesperson for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire struck one of the plane's engines. The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Iranian state television said both of the plane's black boxes — which record cockpit conversations and instrument data — had been found.
Numerous victims from Edmonton
Multiple people from Edmonton are believed to be among the 63 Canadians killed. Payman Parseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in the Alberta capital, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM: "We lost a significant portion of our community."
Memorials set up
Makeshift memorials have been created in a number of places, including at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv and at Boryspil International Airport east of Kyiv.
In Ottawa, the flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill was lowered to half-mast to honour the victims.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters