Text by Annie Hay
An Iranian Caspian Airlines plane bound for Yerevan, Armenia, crashed today at 11:30 a.m. local time in the Iranian Qazvin province, about 75 miles outside of Tehran. The plane, a 1987 Tupolev 154, was reported by witnesses as seeming to suddenly drop from the air and plunge to the ground, exploding upon impact with the ground. Witnesses interviewed by Iran's INSA news agency reported seeing flames while the plane was still in flight, but sources could not be confirmed. Iranian television and rescue personnel have announced that all 168 passengers and crew members have been confirmed dead.
Founded in 1992, Caspian Airlines has a spotty safety record, including a high number of crashes involving aging Soviet-era planes. The recent crash brings up old questions about the effectiveness of Western sanctioning targeting the government of Iran. Without an infrastructure for plane-building, Iran has had to import its airline fleet, and since Western sanctions against the country were created after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, has been heavily reliant on older Soviet-designed planes. Read more in this New York Times article.