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

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

Who is or may be running in Stikine in the provincial election

Cullen nomination sparks controversy over NDP equity policy

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Witset releases COVID-19 strategy following three confirmed cases

Plan implements strict measures to contain spread of the virus

Meet the 10-year-old girl who grew a pineapple in northern B.C.

Emily Atkins discovers it takes a lot of patience to grow tropical fruit in a temperate climate

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Attorney General of Canada defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Most Read