TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has retrieved some data, including a portion of cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian jetliner accidentally downed by the Revolutionary Guard forces in January, killing all 176 people on board, an Iranian official said Sunday.
That’s according to a report on the website of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, which described the official’s remarks as part of the final report that Tehran plans to issue on the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
The development comes months after the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran. Iranian authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.
The shootdown happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
At the time, Iranian troops were bracing for a U.S. counterstrike and appear to have mistaken the plane for a missile. Iran, however, has not acknowledges that, only saying that after the ballistic missile attack, its air defense was sufficiently alert and had allowed previously scheduled air traffic to resume — a reference to the Ukrainian plane being allowed to take off from Tehran.
The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Capt. Touraj Dehghani Zangeneh, said on Sunday that the Ukrainian passenger plane’s black boxes have only 19 seconds of conversation following the first explosion, though the second missile reached the plane 25 seconds later. The report quoting him did not elaborate.
He said the first missile explosion sent shrapnel into the plane, likely disrupting the plane’s recorders.
Representatives from the U.S., Ukraine, France, Canada, Britain and Sweden — countries whose citizens were killed in the crash — were present during the process to gather data from the recorders, he said.
Last month, an initial report from the Iranian investigation said that a misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders and a decision to fire without authorization all led to the fatal downing of the jetliner.
“Data recovery activity was all done with the aim of at safety and preventing similar incidents,” Zangeneh said, adding an appeal against “any political use of the process.”
He added that Iran’s airspace is now “safe and ready” for international flights.