Three Brits killed after Ukrainian plane crashes shortly after take-off in Iran

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Tributes have been paid to British victims who were among the 176 people that died in a plane crash in Iran.

The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) 737-800 passenger plane crashed minutes into its journey from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Emergency officials told Iran’s state television it was “impossible” that those on board the Boeing 737 – believed to comprise 167 passengers and nine crew members – survived the crash.

Three British victims have been identified as Saeed Tahmasebi, an engineer for Laing O'Rouke, Sam Zokaei, who worked for BP, and Mohammed Reza Kadkhoda-Zadeh, who ran a dry cleaners in West Sussex.

Mr Tahmasebi, 35, from west London, was a post-graduate researcher at Imperial College London.

A spokesman from the university said: “We are deeply saddened at this tragic news.

“Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi was a brilliant engineer with a bright future.

“His contributions to systems engineering earned respect from everyone who dealt with him and will benefit society for years to come.

“He was a warm, humble and generous colleague and close friend to many in our community.

A photo of Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi, and the wreckage of the plane crash. (PA Images)
A man places a memorial to the plane outside the Iranian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Saeed’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as all those affected by this tragedy.”

Mr Zokaei, from Surrey, worked as an engineer at BP.

A spokesman for the oil giant said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our friend and colleague and all of our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

40-year-old Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh is listed as owning a dry cleaning business near Haywards Heath, in Sussex.

Reports in Ukraine suggested there were 73 Canadians and 71 Iranians on board, as well as 15 Ukrainians, three Britons and several other Europeans.

The plane took off from Imam Khomeini airport at 2.40am GMT, heading for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The planned flightpath for PS752. (PA Graphics)

Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared that a fire had started in one of the plane’s engines.

However the OPS, an aviation risk monitoring group, told The Independent the tragedy looks likely to be a ‘shootdown event’.

The Ukrainian airline said in a statement that the plane was last serviced on 6 January 2020.

The statement added: “According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2,400 metres.

“Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance.”

A rescue worker searches the scene of the crash. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Debris is seen from the plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran (AP)

Speaking from the site of the crash, Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s emergency services, told Iranian state television: “The fire is so heavy that we cannot [do] any rescue... We have 22 ambulances, four bus ambulances and a helicopter at the site.”

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement: "My sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of all passengers and crew.”

The crash came as Iran fired missiles at military bases in Iraq hosting US troops, in response to the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

There was no indication that the plane crash was linked to the rocket strikes.

The state TV report said the crash is suspected to have been caused by engine failure, not “terrorism”.

Iranian media quoted an Iranian aviation official as saying the pilot of the airliner did not declare an emergency.

Rescue workers search the scene of the crash. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Debris is seen from a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran. (AP)

The UK has urged Iran not to carry out further "reckless and dangerous" attacks after Tehran’s attack on the military bases.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged Iran to pursue "urgent de-escalation" as the crisis in the Gulf intensified.

Read more from Yahoo News UK:

Boris Johnson warns Donald Trump against 'disproportionate' strikes on Iran

Stampede at funeral procession for Soleimani leaves 56 dead and over 200 injured

What the Iran crisis could mean for UK petrol prices

US president Donald Trump tweeted "all is well" following the attack.

US officials said 15 missiles were fired, with 10 striking the Ain al-Asad base 100 miles west of Baghdad, one striking a base in Irbil in northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, and another four missing their targets.