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Iran plane crash kills at least 16

The Russian-made plane crashed in Mashhad in an emergency landing. An Iranian air crash last week killed 168. Experts point to the poor state of the airline industry, reliant on older Russian planes.

July 25, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — A Russian-made airliner skidded off the runway and caught fire Friday as it made a hard landing at an airport in eastern Iran, leaving at least 16 people dead and 21 injured, Iranian state television and official news agencies reported.

It was the nation's second deadly plane accident in as many weeks.

Aria Airlines Flight 1525 from Tehran, carrying 153 passengers and crew members, slid off the runway during an emergency landing at Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city, state news media reported.

Rescue workers took the injured to hospitals as firefighters extinguished the flames.

A photograph of the crash site showed the front end of the plane sheared off. Ali Ikhani, chief of the Civil Aviation Organization, told state television that the plane struck a wall after skidding off the runway.

"The impact of the landing pushed the plane off the runway," a survivor, who was identified only as Jaffari, told the semiofficial Fars news agency.

News reports said that at least 13 passengers and three crew members were killed, and that 21 people were injured.

Among the dead was Capt. Mehdi Dadpei, the airline's managing director, Islamic Republic News Agency said. Officials said the jet was a Russian-made Ilyushin 62M.

The director of public relations at Mashhad's airport told state television that the plane had experienced "technical glitches."

On July 15, Iran's Caspian Airways Flight 7908, a Russian-made Tupolev, crashed 16 minutes after taking off from Tehran en route to the Armenian capital of Yerevan, killing all 168 passengers and crew members.

The crashes highlight what experts describe as the dilapidated state of Iran's civil aviation industry, which remains under sanctions that prevent it from buying new Western-made aircraft. Western nations have offered to lift the sanctions if Tehran curtails its nuclear enrichment program, a proposal the government has dismissed.

But other analysts say Iran could upgrade its fleet by purchasing newer Russian-made planes. Fars reported Friday that the chief of the national airline company has signed a deal to buy 400 more Russian-made Tupolev aircraft.

--

daragahi@latimes.com

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