Experts at the French air accident investigation body, BEA, on Monday successfully downloaded data from the cockpit voice recorder of a Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran in January.
Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada were among the 176 people killed when the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by two Iranian missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Jan. 8.
After initially denying any responsibility for the crash, Iranian officials were forced to admit that an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps air defence unit “unintentionally” shot down the airliner amid heightened tensions with U.S. forces in neighbouring Iraq.
“CVR data – including the event itself – has been successfully downloaded,” the BEA said in a tweet, referring to the cockpit voice recorder.
It did not elaborate on the content of the audio, which records pilots’ verbal communications and other cockpit sounds. The release of any further information is a matter for Iranian authorities leading the investigation, a BEA spokesman said.
The CVR is one of the two so-called “black boxes” fitted to all airliners.
The other black box, the flight data recorder, was being examined by experts, the BEA said.
International pressure on Iran
The black boxes have been at the centre of an international tug of war for more than six months. Canada, along with countries around the world who lost citizens in the downing, have united to pressure Iran to follow international conventions and transport the recorders to a country capable of reading them without delay.
The download was finally scheduled for Monday with representatives from multiple countries present, including Canada, Iran, France, Ukraine, the U.S. and Sweden.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he welcomes the download of the audio, but continues to push for an investigation into what happened.
Canada welcomes the delivery by Iran of Flight #PS752’s flight recorders to France for analysis. We continue to ask Iran for a full investigation.@DmytroKuleba@AnnLinde@JamesCleverly@MHaneefAtmar@TSBCanada@BEA_Aero
Statement of International Coordination & Response Group: pic.twitter.com/G296ZFv7Ao
— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) July 20, 2020
Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, members of the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS752, also welcomed Iran’s delivery of the black boxes to France, but said the step was “long overdue.”
“We reiterate our demand for Iran to conduct a full, transparent, and independent flight safety investigation in accordance with international standards,” the joint statement said.
“The Coordination Group will continue working to ensure transparency, accountability and justice, including reparations, for the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.”
Victims’ families want answers
Hamed Esmaeilion, spokesperson for the association representing the families of the Canadians who died on the flight from Tehran to Kyiv, said families of victims had requested to participate as observers in the investigation process but their requests were denied.
“The analysis of the black boxes is only the first step of the investigations into this atrocity,” said Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and nine-year-old daughter Reera died on the flight.
Esmaeilion said the families have reason to believe that Iranian authorities attempted to tamper with the black boxes under the guise of trying to “repair” them before they were forced to hand them over for downloading to the BEA.
The families also question Iran’s insistence that the Ukrainian airliner was shot down by error.
“There are numerous questions, discrepancies, and findings that render the possibility of the ‘human error’ scenario inconceivable,” Esmaeilion said.
“Refusing to close Iran’s airspace amid the highest levels of military tensions, permitting the Ukrainian aircraft to take off, launching multiple missiles at the aircraft just after take-off, hurriedly destroying the crash site and all evidence, threatening and intimidating the witnesses, and suppressing the families of victims are all testament to the notion that the truth can be different from what the Iranian government proposes.”
With files from Ashley Burke of CBC News and Reuters