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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Engineers Killed in An-140 Crash

APRescue workers searching for the remains of the passengers and crew of the An-140, which crashed Monday in southern Iran.
At least 44 passengers and crew were killed when a Ukrainian plane crashed upon its final approach to an airport in Iran, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The An-140 twin-engine turboprop crashed at about 7:30 p.m. Monday near the village of Baqerabad while preparing to land in Isfahan, some 400 kilometers south of Tehran.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sergei Borodenkov said that there were 44 people on board, including 38 passengers and six crew. All died in the crash.

Ukrainian Transport Ministry spokeswoman Lilia Petrenko said earlier Tuesday that there were 50 victims, but other officials later retracted that figure.

Still, reports on the number of people on board continued to vary. Iranian officials said there were 46 victims, while the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran said there were 45 dead.

"There were 39 passengers and six crew on board, most of them Ukrainians, and all of them died," said Vladimir Dubovik, the first secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran.

The Russian Foreign Ministry published the names of six Russian men who were on board the flight, and said they were managers and leading specialists from a number of Russian enterprises.

Russian media reported that the heads of Russian companies Rubin, Avionika and Agregat were on the flight and identified them, respectively, as Boris Okulov, Nikolai Babynin and Vladimir Torkhov.

The Kharkovsky State Aviation Production Plant in Kharkiv, where the An-140 is made, said it had lost its seven leading engineers. In all, the plant lost 13 employees.

Top managers and engineers from Antonov and other Ukrainian aviation companies were also killed.

"This is very bad. It is a huge loss for the aviation industries of both Russia and Ukraine," Antonov spokesman Andrei Sovenko said.

Gleb Garanich / Reuters

The An-140 was carrying aviation experts from Ukraine and Russia on a trip to Iran.

"It was an excellent plane and those on board were the best aviation experts that Russia and Ukraine have," Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was quoted by Interfax as saying.

A list of the dead provided by the plant included the names of the wife and son of a Ukrainian aviation expert working in Iran.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma offered his condolences to the victims' families, and lawmakers in the Ukrainian parliament began their session Tuesday with a moment of silence.

The An-140 took off Monday afternoon from Kharkiv, Ukraine, and made an intermediate landing in Trabzon, Turkey, on its way to Iran.

The bodies of all the passengers and crew had been found, Iranian television said Tuesday.

"What rescuers found was bodies all ripped apart," one official at the scene said. "They just collected smashed flesh in bags."

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear; the aircraft lost contact with Isfahan's traffic controllers just minutes before it was due to land.

Iranian air traffic controllers blamed the crash on the pilot's "carelessness and mistake," Tehran radio reported Tuesday.

Ukrainian parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn also blamed pilot error.

"The pilots had problems due to bad visibility and the plane hit a mountain," he told parliament.

Iranian investigators said they had recovered the plane's flight recorders.

A Ukrainian commission was to leave for Iran on Tuesday to help with the investigation.

The plane was operated by the Aeromost-Kharkiv company, based in Kharkiv. A company spokesman told Interfax that the plane was being flown by a highly experienced crew that had previously carried out its testing program.

The Kharkiv plant has sold a license to assemble 80 An-140s in Iran to the Iranian HESA company in Isfahan.

The plane that crashed Monday was carrying a group of Ukrainian and Russian aircraft engineers to attend the first official flight of the Iranian version of the plane, the Iran-140.

"It was the same model plane that we are developing with Ukraine, but I don't think the crash will affect this project," Iranian Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram said.

Ukrainian officials agreed. "It is a big tragedy. It will slow down the development of the Ukrainian air-building sector. But it will not stop it. We will just need time," said Volodymyr Ryzhov, head of the Ukraine's State Company for New Technologies.

(AP, MT, Reuters)