Iranian Military Plane Crashes into Tehran Building

An Iranian military transport plane crashed Tuesday into an apartment building as it was attempting to land at a Tehran airport, killing all 94 people on board and more than two dozen occupants of the building. Iranian state television described the cause of the crash as a technical failure.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In Tehran today, a military transport plane crashed into an apartment building. All 94 people on board the plane were killed, along with more than 30 people who were in the building. The plane was attempting to make an emergency landing at the Tehran Airport. Iranian state television described the cause of the crash as a technical failure. Reporter Roxana Suberi is in Tehran at the site of the crash.

And do you know any more now about what caused this?

ROXANA SUBERI reporting:

We still don't know much more about what caused this, except that the pilot had radioed in, saying that he had technical problems, and when he tried to return to the Tehran Airport that he crashed just south of it in an area called Yaftabad. And the airplane was a C-130 plane, which was from the shah's time, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 here in Iran. And I was talking to somebody who's with the army here, and he was telling me that these planes--it has been very difficult for the Iranian government to update these planes and get spare parts because of sanctions that are in place.

MONTAGNE: And is there any knowledge of who's on board--military people, I gather, some journalists on board?

SUBERI: We have gotten more information on that recently, actually. At first we thought there were just a few journalists on board, but now it's possible that the majority of those people on board were journalists; maybe even 85, 86 of them out of the 94 people who were on board were journalists, and the rest were military. And maybe about half of those, we're hearing, were from the state-run TV station here. They were all going down to Banerabad, which is in the south of Iran, to cover the military maneuvers that the military was planning to put on down there.

MONTAGNE: And you have been there at the scene for some time now, Roxana. Tell us what happened, what it looked like and what people told you.

SUBERI: I have been, actually, outside of the apartment complex here. They haven't let most journalists see it close up, but when I got here there were a lot--hordes of people, actually--outside. Many of them were family members who were trying to get inside to see if their loved ones were OK, but they were not able to get in for a couple of hours. Ambulances were having a tough time trying to get through these crowds and in to get the injured people. One witness I talked to said he was here on the scene right after the crash, and he said what had happened was the plane had hit the first floor of one of these buildings, and a fire just spread rapidly up to the 10th floor, which is the top floor. And he actually said he dragged three or four people out who were completely burned.

MONTAGNE: Now the death toll has gone up of those in the building. It's upwards of 30 people now. Any expectation that it could go higher, given this is a 10-story apartment building?

SUBERI: It is possible that it could go higher, and many of the people have been taken to the hospitals now, so it's not clear if those people--and some of them will survive and some of them will not. The building itself is pretty sturdy. This was also built before the revolution. And one of the women who lived there told me that nothing really happened to the building that was hit; she was living across from this building. Nothing really happened to the building that was hit except that it caught on fire.

MONTAGNE: Roxana, thanks very much for talking with us.

SUBERI: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: Reporter Roxana Suberi in Tehran, reporting at the scene of where an airplane crashed into a building, killing scores of people.

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