'Something very unusual happened': Trudeau says Canadians 'deserve' answer on the fatal Iran plane crash

On Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko confirmed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800, crashed on its was from Iran’s capital, Tehran, to Kyiv and there were no survivors.

"Tehran airport is anything but a simple one. Therefore, for several years UIA has been using this airport to conduct training on Boeing 737 aircraft aimed at evaluating pilots' proficiency and ability to act in emergency cases, Ihor Sosnovsky, Ukraine International Airlines vice president of operations said in a statement.

“According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2400 meters. Given the crew's experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance."

Messaging from the Canadian government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was joined by other government officials for a press conference to discuss the events of the tragic crash. The prime minister said that 138 passengers on the plane were connecting to Canada on PS752.

“I want to express my deepest condolences to all who are mourning a loss of a love one,” Trudeau said.

He also confirmed that the Canadian government will ensure that the crash is thoroughly investigated.

“We’ve had many countries step up to provide their assistance and support,” Trudeau said. “[Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne] will be engaging directly with his Iranian counterpart...to request a presence from Canada in Tehran and in the investigation.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau told the media that the investigation is in the early stages but the crash happened about two minutes after takeoff, which occurred in a “normal fashion” before contact was lost. Garneau said this suggests that “something very unusual happened.”

Trudeau and Garneau both could not confirm the cause of the crash, with the prime minister saying that Canadians “deserve” answers he cannot categorically say that the plane was not shot down.

“It is too early to speculate. I would encourage people not to speculate, we are certainly aware that this is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Trudeau said.

The transport minister also confirmed that Iran is leading the investigation but Canada has “offered to the Ukrainians all the technical assistance that they may wish.”

“It’s also true that the transportation safety board…is also going to be involved because there were Canadian nationals won this particular flight,” Garneau said. “They have indicated that if it was the desire of the Ukrainian or the Iranians…that Canada would be prepared to assist in terms of black box data interpretation.”

Details about the victims

There were 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers and crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons on board. The airline has released a list of passengers on the flight. More information continues to be revealed about the victims of the fatal crash.

Pedram Mousavi, Mojgan Daneshmand, Darya Mousavi and Darina Mousavi. (CBC News)

Reuters has reported that 30 Edmontonians were on the plane, including University of Alberta professor Pedram Mousavi, his wife Mojgan Daneshmand and their daughters Daria and Dorina. Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Northgate Centre Medical Clinic in Edmonton, and her two daughters were also killed, according to CBC News.

The University of Guelph released a statement confirming that two students from the school were aboard the plane, Ghanimat Azhdari and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, who was pursuing a PhD in the Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of two of our students,” University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino said in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to the families of these two students and to anyone else affected by this tragedy. Any loss to our campus community touches all of us.”

What we know so far

The crash follows increased tensions in Iran following the killing of Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. last week.

Global Affairs Canada has alerted all Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Iran “due to the volatile security situation, the regional threat of terrorism and the risk of arbitrary detention.”

“Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, are at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained,” the advisory from the government agency reads. “Iran does not recognize dual nationality and Canada will not be granted consular access to dual Canadian-Iranian citizens.” 

Reuters is reporting that a Canadian security source said the initial assessment of Western intelligence agencies is that the plane was not brought down by a missile. It is believe that the plane crash was caused by a technical malfunction.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has described the situation as “extremely fluid” and has been in touch with Ukrainian counterparts.

The plane's black boxes have been found but the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority said they would not be handed over to Boeing or America, the organization would analyzes the boxes themselves.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that a team of experts and officials will be heading to Iran to investigate the crash, including the casualties.

Iran’s president has made a public statement on the crash, extending his condolences to the individuals on the plane, as well as the Iranians who died in the stampede at Gen. Soleimani's funeral.

On Wednesday morning, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on the the conflict with Iran, following Iran's missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops on Tuesday. Trump did not mention the plane crash but confirmed there were no American casualties in missile attack.

"Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down,” The U.S. president said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. was calling for “complete cooperation” with the investigation into the cause of the plane crash in Iran.

“The U.S. Department of State extends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the 176 passengers and crew killed in the tragic crash,” Pompeo said in the statement. “The United States will continue to follow this incident closely and stands prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance.”

Canada reacts to Iran tragedy

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones in this tragedy,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. “Today, I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens.”

Boeing has issued a statement on the crash, saying the company’s thoughts are with the crew, passengers and their families after this “tragic event.”

Transport Canada has said that Air Canada is the only Canadian airline that operates in region and has altered all flight routes in and out of the Middle East.

Many Canadian leaders have released public statements to express their condolences for the victims of this devastating plane crash.

Canadians also took to social media to share their thoughts following the news of the crash.

The government has stated that friends and relatives of Canadian citizens believed to be on board can contact Global Affairs Canada's 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre by calling 613-996-8885 or 1-800-387-3124, or by sending an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

Canadian citizens in Iran requiring consular assistance should contact the Canadian Embassy in Ankara at +90 (312) 409 2700 or call Global Affairs Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre at +1 613-996-8885.