An Iranian official said Iran is trying to analyze the black box from a Ukrainian jet that was unintentionally shot down by authorities over Tehran, countering reports the device had been sent to Ukraine.
The official made the comments to state news agency IRNA on Jan. 19, Reuters reported, in a move that represents an apparent backtrack.
Hassan Rezaifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said there were no immediate plans to send the black box abroad.
“We are trying to read the black boxes here in Iran,” he said. “Otherwise, our options are Ukraine and France, but no decision has been taken so far to send them to another country.”
Rezaifar’s comments come a day after IRNA and another news agency reported he said the black boxes had been dispatched abroad at the request of Ukrainian authorities.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Jan. 18 that Rezaifar said Iranian authorities cited trouble processing the flight-record data and sent them to Ukraine for analysis.
“With the use of the expertise of the countries of France, Canada, and America, we will try to read the [flight data recorder] in Kyiv,” Rezaifar was cited as saying by the news agency.
“If this effort is unsuccessful, then the black box will be sent to France.”
‘Iran Has a Path to Choose’
Fifty-seven of the 176 killed in the downed plane were Canadian.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said two of its investigators left Tehran on Jan. 19, after a six-day visit during which they examined the wreckage.
TSB officials said in a statement that while their Iranian counterparts were “cooperative and helpful,” there were no firm plans for downloading the cockpit voice and flight data.
Canadian media reported the country was pressuring Iranian authorities to release the black boxes. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne was cited by The Globe and Mail as urging Iran to act, saying that “Iran has a path to choose. … When you say to the world that you take full responsibility, that comes with consequences.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been pressing for a full investigation into the incident, said Jan. 17 that Iran should send the flight recorder to France for analysis.
France is one of the few countries with the ability to read the flight and cockpit data recorders from the jet, which he said were badly damaged, Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa.
‘I Wish I Was Dead’
After initial denials, Iranian officials admitted its military shot down the plane and blamed human error. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace division, said that the missiles were launched from a military base in the area.
“I wish I was dead,” Hajizadeh said, CNN reported. “I accept all responsibility for this incident.”
The same night the plane was shot down, Tehran launched more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi military bases that house U.S. forces, in retaliation for the White House-approved airstrike to kill top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Iran has faced a deepening crisis abroad and at home over the plane disaster.
Reuters contributed to this report