TEHRAN (FNA)- The crash of a passenger jet outside Kyrgyzstan’s main airport which killed 66 people is being blamed on technical issues.
The Boeing 737 was headed to Tehran when it crashed on Sunday near Bishkek’s Manas International Airport, government officials said. Twenty-four people survived the crash.
About 10 minutes into the flight to Tehran, Iran, the crew of the Boeing 737 reported a technical problem and said the plane was returning to the airport, said an official at Manas International Airport.
The crew reported a technical malfunction only five minutes into the flight, and it crashed shortly after as it was heading back to the airport, Kyrgyz Transport and Communications Minister Nurlan Salaimanov said.
The plane burst into flames upon hitting a field about 12km outside the airport.
Government spokeswoman Roza Daudova said 24 people survived, including seven out of 17 members of a high school basketball team from Bishkek.
Daudova also said that the crash was likely caused by a decompression on board the jet.
Emergency and government officials said the plane belonged to Itek Air, a Kyrgyz company, but was operated by Iran Aseman Airlines. However, presidential adviser Tokon Mamytov said the plane both belonged to and was operated by Itek Air.
Itek Air has been banned from operating in European Union airspace because of failure to meet safety and aviation standards, according to a list published by the EU on July 24.
The US air base in the ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan supports operations in nearby Afghanistan but Salaimanov ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash.
“Without a doubt, this was not a terrorist act,” Salaimanov said.
The plane carried 83 passengers – including members of a high school sports team – along with six crew members and an aviation official.
Salaimanov said 25 people survived the crash, including the entire crew. Twenty-two were being treated in Bishkek hospitals and three people were sent home without serious injuries.
Daudova said the passengers included 24 Kyrgyz citizens, 52 Iranians, three Kazakhs, two Canadians, one citizen of Turkey and one Chinese.
Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Ramis Satybekov said the crash was likely caused by either an engine failure or a malfunction in the plane’s flight control system. Daudova, however, said the cause of the crash was decompression.
Emergency officials have already retrieved two black box flight recorders and investigators were trying to determine the cause of the crash.
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country west of China. Bishkek, the capital and the country’s largest city, has a population about one million and is situated in the northern part of the Central Asian nation.
Manas International Airport is about 25km northwest of central Bishkek.
List of the victims, excluding Iranian nationals, follows: