A woman pauses at a makeshift memorial prior to a ceremony in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, to remember those who lost their lives in Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 which was shot down shortly after takeoff in Iran on January 8, 2020. The investigation into Iran’s downing of a commercial jetliner that killed dozens of Canadians in January has hit a snag due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Canada asks Iran to delay download of Flight 752 black boxes due to COVID-19

Flight 752 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran in January

Canadian authorities are blaming travel restrictions related to COVID-19 for a request that Iran hold off on downloading the flight recorders from a commercial jetliner shot down in January.

The Iranian military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8. All 176 people on board were killed, including 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.

Canada and other countries who lost citizens in the incident, including Britain, Sweden, Ukraine and Afghanistan, had been pressuring Iran for months to hand over the flight recorders from the doomed flight so their data could be downloaded and analyzed.

It is hoped the information from the so-called black boxes will provide a clearer picture of what actually happened and help ensure those Iranian officials responsible are held to account.

Yet while Iran’s civil aviation organization reached out to affected countries last week to assess when they could send representatives to participate in the process, the head of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it simply isn’t possible now because of COVID-19.

“Everyone is anxious for the download and analysis of the recorders to proceed; this should have happened without delay, shortly after the accident,” TSB chair Kathy Fox said in a statement.

“However, with COVID-19 and the multiple travel restrictions, travelling to attend the download of the flight recorders is currently not possible — and this, for all countries concerned.”

As a result, she said, Canada and the other countries have asked Iran to postpone downloading and analyzing the flight-recorder data until the restrictions are lifted.

“We still expect Iran will carry through with its commitment to have the recorders downloaded and, once conditions improve, we will send our experts to attend the download, wherever this takes place,” Fox said.

The black boxes have become pivotal to the Iranian-led flight-safety investigation and Ukrainian-led criminal investigation into the downing of Flight 752, which was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran on the same night Iran fired a series of missiles at neighbouring Iraq.

Iran promised in early March to surrender the flight recorders within two weeks, but missed that deadline.

While acknowledging the difficulties posed by COVID-19, Toronto dentist Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and nine-year-old daughter Reera were on the flight, said the international community needs to keep the pressure on Iran to hand over the flight recorders.

“The best thing to do is to take the black boxes out of Iran to a third country like France,” he told The Canadian Press.

“We don’t want to risk anybody’s life right now and Canada can send the experts after they are sure nobody is at risk. This is a game Iran plays and I’m sure they are trying to put the ball in other countries’ court to buy some time.”

The federal government’s new adviser on Flight 752, former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale, said last month that Iran could not use COVID-19 as an “excuse” for not handing over the black boxes — a position echoed by Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Champagne’s spokesman Adam Austen on Sunday did not respond directly to questions about the request that Iran postpone downloading the flight recorders and instead indicated the government’s past statements that they should be processed immediately.

“We continue to call on Iran to allow for the black boxes to be downloaded and analyzed in a facility with the capability to do so without delay,” Austen said in an email.

“Canada will continue to work with the other members of the international coordination group to ensure Iran lives up to its international obligations as we pursue justice for the victims of this horrific tragedy.”

READ MORE: Husband of Iran plane crash victim seeks answers, justice from investigation

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFlight 752 crash in Iran

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo’s Rocky Point

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

City of Nanaimo and RDN re-opening playgrounds

Playgrounds will be back open on Wednesday, June 3, with health guidelines in effect

Nanaimo CAO named president of Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators

Jake Rudolph elected as CAMA president during association’s virtual AGM Tuesday

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read