TEHRAN: An aircraft of Iran's Aseman Airlines with 66 people onboard crashed on Sunday. At the onset, the Airlines claimed that all aboard the flight were killed. However, soon after, it retracted its statement saying they cannot determine how many have been killed. It said that rescue teams were struggling to find the wreckage of the ATR-72 twin-engine plane.
"Given the special circumstances of the region, we still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers of this plane," Mohammad Tabatabaie, Aseman's public relations chief told the ISNA news agency.
The plane crashed amid severe weather in the Zagros mountains after taking off on a domestic flight from Tehran's Mehrabad airport at around 8 am for the city of Yasuj in Isfahan province.
"After searches in the area, unfortunately, we were informed that the plane crashed. Unfortunately, all our dear ones lost their lives in this incident," Tabatabai had earlier said adding that the plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, as well as six crew members.
Due to severe weather conditions, a helicopter sent by Iran's national emergency services was unable to land at the accident site.
The Relief and Rescue Organisation of Iran's Red Crescent had been dispatched 12 teams to the region. "Given the fact that the area is mountainous, it is not possible to send ambulances," Mojtaba Khaledi, spokesman for the national emergency services said.
Decades of international sanctions have left Iran with an ageing fleet of passenger planes which it has struggled to maintain and modernise. It has suffered multiple aviation disasters, most recently in 2014 when a Sepahan plane crashed killing 39 people.
Aseman currently has a fleet of 36 planes -- half of them 105-seat Dutch Fokker 100s. Its three Boeing 727-200s are almost as old as the Islamic revolution, having made their first flights in 1980.