TEHRAN, July 25, 2009 (AFP) - An Iranian airliner which overshot the runway and hurtled into a perimeter wall killing 16 people appears to have hit the tarmac too fast, an aviation official said on Saturday.
"This plane should have landed at a maximum speed of 165 miles per hour (260 kilometres an hour) but it in fact landed at around 200 mph," acting Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) chief Mohammad Ali Ilkhani told state television.
He said the licence of Iranian carrier Aria Airlines, whose plane was involved in Friday's deadly accident in the northeastern city of Mashhad, had been revoked.
|A member of Iran's Air Force takes photographs at the site of the wreckage of the passenger airplane on July 24, 2009 (AFP photo)|
The official IRNA news agency cited ICAO spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh as saying a total of 16 people were killed -- 13 crew members and three passengers.
Nine crew members were from Kazakhstan while the other four were Iranians, Jafarzadeh said. The three passengers who died were all Iranians.
"The plane was carrying 153 passengers, and 31 were wounded in the incident," Jafarzadeh said, adding that the plane belonged to Kazakhstan but was chartered to Aria Airlines.
However, Moscow said the dead included three Russian citizens and put the death toll at 17. "As a result of the plane crash 17 people died, of whom three were Russian citizens," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said 30 people were injured, including a Russian in Mashhad hospital.
"We just heard a boom then the plane swerved to the right and then all I can remember were people praying to God," one survivor, a man with his head covered in bandages, told Iranian state-run television.
An old woman, lying on bed in hospital in a gown said people from a nearby village were first on the scene. "It took the paramedics around 20 minutes to reach us; the ordinary people came first to our aid," she said.
Mashhad, Iran's second city, is a Shiite Muslim pilgrimage destination as it was the burial place of the eighth Shiite imam, Reza.
Iranian media reported that the managing director of Aria Airlines, Mehdi Dadpey, was among those killed in the accident.
A senior transport official said on Friday that the incoming aircraft had overshot the runway.
"Instead of landing at the beginning of the tarmac, the plane landed in the middle of the runway," the ISNA news agency quoted deputy transport minister Ahmad Majidi as saying.
"Because the tarmac’s length is short, it went off the tarmac and crashed into the opposite wall.
The crash came just 10 days after another air disaster when a Caspian Airlines plane, also an Iranian carrier, crashed near the city of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran, killing all 168 people on board.
Iran has been under years of international sanctions hampering its ability to buy modern Boeing or Airbus planes and it has suffered a number of aviation disasters over the past decade.
Its civil and military fleets are made up of ancient aircraft in very poor condition due to their age and lack of maintenance.