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Transportation Safety Board chair Kathleen Fox says the role of Canadian officials sent to investigate the Jan. 8 missile strike on a commercial jet departing Iran that killed 57 Canadians, “is evolving”.
“We do not fully know what the scope of our role will be,” Fox told reporters Monday of TSB participation in an Iran-led probe into why Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was targeted by a surface-to-air missile and crashed in the outskirts of Tehran.
Fox and senior TSB investigator Natacha Van Themsche offered media an update Monday on what the safety board’s involvement might entail as Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said TSB experts would land in Iran the same day.
Given that Iran has admitted the commercial jet was downed by one of its missiles, Van Themsche said the TSB would try to ascertain the reason.
“We need to establish a sequence of events… how everything happened. We also have questions of procedures being followed by the military,” explained Van Themsche.
“As well, why was the airspace not closed considering the tensions and what happened just hours earlier. We want to know…why they haven’t decided to close the airspace. And even after the accident, why did some companies still operate out of that region.”
Flight 752 to Kyev was hit by shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile after taking off at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday (Tehran time).
The damage caused an engine on the 737-800 to catch fire and it crashed in the outskirts of Iran’s capital, killing all 176 passengers, barely four hours after Iran bombarded two military bases in Iraq housing NATO forces.
Fox said that the TSB was in contact with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Islamic Republic of Iran within hours of the incident and has since accepted Iran’s invitation to attend the accident site, as per Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
“Additionally, the TSB will also deploy a second team of investigators with expertise in aircraft recorder download and analysis, once the time and place that this activity will take place is confirmed,” Fox said.
As Transport minister Marc Garneau indicated shortly after the crash, Fox said Iran is leading the investigation as per the civil aviation convention. Asked about Canada’s current “observer status”, Fox had this to say:
“We don’t use the term ‘observer’ in that context, our role is expert-plus–expert plus in our ability to attend the site of the wreckage; expert plus, the ability to listen to the (black box) download,” explained Fox.
“Beyond that we can’t say (the scope). It will depend on what happens in the coming days. Many levels in our government are pushing for a more active role. How that rolls out at this stage, I do not know.”