Yesterday, Thursday 9th January, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ‘We have intelligence, including from our allies and our own intelligence that the plane was shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missiles.’ 176 people died in the Ukrainian International crash, including 78 Iranians, and 63 Canadians.
Apparent Missile Debris at Crash Site
Western agencies claim to have infrared signals of two missile launches together with indications of an explosion. Reflected by Trudeau, western opinion is that the missiles were launched by accident. A London-based firm has said that the missiles were likely to have been SA-15 Gauntlet missiles operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Images on social media also suggest that the aircraft was shot down by one or more missiles.
The SA-15 ‘Gauntlet’/TOR-M1 Missile Launcher ©Reuters
Protocol in such events is that investigation is the prerogative of the country in which an accident occurs. Previously Iran refused to involve either Boeing or the US National Transportation Safety Board in the analysis of flight recorders but would give Ukrainian investigators access. This position has since been reversed blaming ‘a mistake taken (sic) by a reporter’. The NTSB has now received formal notification of the crash. The Iranian authorities have reported the flight recorders as having been damaged.
Iranian authorities rejected the western intelligence assessments, saying ‘it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumours are illogical.‘ They maintain that the crash was the result of technical issues with the aircraft engines.
In a related development, Professor Graham Brathwaite of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University in the UK has said that the Iranian handling of the crash site, including apparent quick removal of evidence, raises ‘serious concerns over the integrity of the investigation.‘ He said that if the ‘black boxes’ are damaged then the crash site is the only forensic evidence available. Photographs taken on the day of the crash show heavy machinery being used to remove larger pieces of debris. This appears to violate annex 13 of the Chicago convention for protocols for crash enquiries.