Tributes have been paid to three British nationals who died when a Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran.
Mohammed Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh, who owned a dry cleaners, BP engineer Sam Zokaei and PhD student and engineer Saeed Tahmasebi were all on board the flight.
They were among the 176 people from seven countries who died in the crash.
Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed just after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport at 06:12 local time (02:42 GMT).
The airline said the plane underwent scheduled maintenance on Monday.
A Downing Street spokesman said the UK was “working closely with the Ukrainian authorities and the Iranian authorities” over the crash, and there was “no indication” the plane was brought down by a missile.
As well as the three Britons, the victims in the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians – including all of the crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans and three Germans, Ukraine foreign affairs minister Vadym Prystaiko said.
Rescue teams have been sent to the crash site but the head of Iran’s Red Crescent told state media that it was “impossible” for anyone to have survived the crash.
Tributes were paid locally to Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh, 40, who ran a neighbourhood dry cleaners in Hassocks, West Sussex, and had a nine-year-old daughter.
Steve Edgington from the pet shop next door said he had known Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh for 14 years, and described him as a lovely, hardworking man who was good at his job and loved by staff.
Savvas Savvidis, 36, who rented a room in Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh’s home in Brighton, said he was a “super-nice person”.
“It’s so sad. Before he left we had a conversation, he told me that he spent all his life working, working really hard, and now finally he wants to start to enjoy life a bit more.”
Mr Savvidis described Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh as a humble man who loved his daughter very much.
The dry cleaners closed on Wednesday, with neighbouring businesses telling the BBC that staff were too upset to stay open.
Meanwhile, in a statement, BP said “with the deepest regret” that its employee Mr Zokaei, 42, from Twickenham, was among the passengers.
Mr Zokaei had been on holiday. He had worked for BP for 14 years and was based at the company’s site in Sunbury-on-Thames in Middlesex.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our friend and colleague and all of our thoughts are with his family and friends,” BP said.
A friend of Mr Zokaei, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC they were “still in shock”.
“He was a highly accomplished person. Very clever and very friendly. Always smiling and full of positive energy. He will be sorely missed.
“He was always trying new adventures. He cycled and toured Europe on bikes a few times. He also loved travelling to interesting far out places.”
Also killed was Mr Tahmasebi, 35, who worked as an engineer for Laing O’Rourke in Dartford.
Last year, Mr Tahmasebi married his Iranian partner, Niloufar Ebrahim, who was also listed as a passenger on the plane.
“Everyone here is shocked and saddened by this very tragic news,” said Laing O’Rourke.
“Saeed was a popular and well respected engineer and will be missed by many of his colleagues. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time and we will do all we can to support them through it.”
‘Humble and generous’
Mr Tahmasebi – whose full name was Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi – was also a part-time PhD student at Imperial College London’s Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation.
A spokeswoman for the university said: “We are deeply saddened at this tragic news. Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi was a brilliant engineer with a bright future.
“His contributions to systems engineering earned respect from everyone who dealt with him and will benefit society for years to come.
“He was a warm, humble and generous colleague and close friend to many in our community. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Saeed’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as all those affected by this tragedy.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier, Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both said their thoughts were with the families of those killed.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman has said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in the plane crash in Iran overnight.”
They said it was “urgently seeking confirmation” about how many British nationals were on board and would be supporting any families affected.
Melinda Simmons, British ambassador to Ukraine, said her thoughts are with those affected.
Ukraine’s state aviation service has forbidden its national airlines from using Iranian airspace from Thursday, with the restrictions in place until an investigation into the cause of the crash has concluded.
Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran and Iranian state television both initially said technical issues caused the crash.
But the embassy later removed this statement and said any comment regarding the cause of the accident prior to a commission’s inquiry was not official.
Ukraine said its entire civilian aviation fleet would be checked for airworthiness and criminal proceedings would be opened into the disaster.
The country’s president warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official reports were ready.
Ukrainian International Airlines said the flight disappeared from radar just a “few minutes” after take-off.
The Ukrainian national carrier said according to preliminary data there were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board but its staff were “clarifying the exact number”.
“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims,” a statement said.
The airline, which is investigating the crash, said the aircraft – a Boeing 737-800 – was built in 2016 and had its last scheduled maintenance on Monday.
There was no sign of any problems with the plane before take-off and the airline’s president said it had an “excellent, reliable crew”.
A statement from Boeing said its “heartfelt thoughts” were with all those affected following the “tragic event”.
There are several thousand Boeing 737-800s in operation around the world which have completed tens of millions of flights. They have been involved in 10 incidents, including this crash, where at least one passenger was killed, aviation safety analyst Todd Curtis told the BBC.
This is the first time a Ukraine International Airlines plane has been involved in a fatal crash.
|Dubois v Fujimoto|
|Date: 21 December Venue: Copper Box Arena, London; Coverage: Live-text commentary on BBC Sport website|
Promoter Frank Warren says he would be confident in matching Daniel Dubois against unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua “today”.
Dubois, 22, is viewed as one of Britain’s bright heavyweight prospects and is seeking a 14th win against Japan’s Kyotaro Fujimoto on Saturday.
The London fighter has sparred Joshua during time with the GB amateur squad.
“If I could make him and Anthony Joshua today, I would make it,” said Warren, 67. “I am so confident.”
Warren added: “People say ‘it’s too soon’. I know who I would have my money on.”
Dubois is one of a small number of fighters to stagger Joshua in sparring.
Asked if he agreed with Warren’s view he could compete with the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion if they were matched today, Dubois replied: “Definitely. This is what I have been dreaming of since the day I started, being in massive fights.”
Dubois beat Nathan Gorman to capture the British heavyweight title in July and Warren hopes to keep his winning run going deep into 2020 when he believes a world-title shot could present itself.
Fujimoto will be Dubois’ fifth opponent of 2019. The 33-year-old former kick-boxer has a record of 21 wins and one defeat but Saturday’s bout at London’s Copper Box Arena is his first outside of his homeland.
“It’s been an amazing year so we are moving on past this one and on to an even better one next year,” added Dubois.
“I’m young, with a lot of ability and I’m ready to be pushed on now. It’s a matter of getting the right fights and for Frank to map out the route.”
British Airways passengers have expressed their anger at being unable to get through to the airline following the confusion over cancelled flights.
BA pilots are due to strike on 9, 10 and 27 September, but BA also told customers with tickets booked on other days that their flights were cancelled.
The company admitted on Saturday that it had told some passengers to rebook or get a refund by mistake.
BA said it had received nearly 40,000 calls and was working around the clock.
After initially sending one email informing customers of cancellations, BA then sent a second email to some people saying their flights would go ahead as planned.
But in the second email, passengers were not given a link to automatically rebook onto their original flight, meaning they had to contact BA directly.
Some customers say they have spent hours trying to get in touch with BA’s customer services without success.
One woman, Josie Simpson, told the BBC she called the airline 67 times to try to rebook a family holiday to Florida.
The company’s Twitter feed has also been inundated with messages from frustrated people.
In response to one passenger, a BA representative said: “We’re extremely sorry that you’re having difficulties trying to rearrange your flights.
“Our teams have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Some customers who were told their flights were not scrapped after all have been left confused about whether their decision to accept a refund has now been cancelled.
Others have complained that they have been left out of pocket.
Ellie Kormis, from Surrey, spent the whole of Saturday trying to speak to BA after being told one of her flights for her family’s package holiday to Greece was cancelled.
She said they ended up booking new flights – which extended their holiday by three days – and extra accommodation, costing more than £2,000.
“You’re left in a situation where you can’t speak to anyone – and you fear you’ll either lose your holiday or be left out of pocket,” she said.
BA then contacted her by email to say her flight wasn’t cancelled after all.
She said it was “an epic mess up on their part”, joking that she had lost hope she would ever get through to speak to someone at BA.
Laura Gillespie, 48, from Perth, said she accepted a refund and booked new flights and trains after being told her flight from London to Edinburgh had been axed.
But she said BA now say they won’t give a refund as the flight has not been cancelled.
“I’ve now got flights booked with two different airlines going to the same place and I’m £140 down. I know it’s not a lot of money compared to some folk who have spent thousands but it’s so annoying.”
In response to customers being frustrated at not being able to get through to customer services, BA said:
- It received 38,000 calls and 33,000 tweets in first 24 hours
- Contact centres stayed open 24 hours to help resolve issues, with 70 extra staff
- Around 100 staff were working to answer Twitter queries
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said on Friday the strikes were a “last resort” born out of “enormous frustration” with airline management.
Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which the airline put forward in July.
BA says it carries 145,000 customers every day – with a fleet of more than 280 aircraft – and a BA plane takes off from somewhere in the world every 90 seconds.
What can I claim if my flight has been affected by the strikes?
BA advice says you can request a full refund, rebook your flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of your fare to fly to a different destination.
If your flight has been cancelled because airline staff are striking, the the Civil Aviation Authority said, then this would be considered within the airline’s control, and therefore you have a legal right to either:
- A full refund, and this includes flights in the same journey that might be from a different airline (for example, an onward or return flight)
- A replacement flight to get to your destination
- Or, if you are part way through your journey and don’t want a replacement flight, you are entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from
In some cases, passengers may be entitled to additional cash compensation for the inconvenience – but only if you receive notice that your flight is affected less than 14 days before departure.
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