Iran Bulldozed Ukrainian Plane Crash Site Before Outside Investigators Arrived
Site was 'scrubbed' by Iranian officials before it could be examined, report reveals
Iran has bulldozed the crash site of the Ukrainian plane that was shot down by an Iranian missile, killing all 176 people on board, before outside investigators could examine the evidence, according to reports.
CBS News reported on Friday that Iranian officials "scrubbed" the site of all debris, leaving the scene unattended and without security, allowing “scavengers” to "pick the site clean."
“Virtually all pieces of the plane” were removed before outsiders were allowed on the scene, CBS News's Elizabeth Palmer reported on Twitter.
CBS crew just visited the #Ukrainian airlines crash site west of Tehran. Nine am local time. Virtually all pieces of the plane were removed yesterday - say locals. Scavengers now picking site clean. No security. Not cordoned off. No sign of any investigators. pic.twitter.com/hhNJyokhjq— Elizabeth Palmer (@elizapalmer) January 10, 2020
The news comes as Iran finally admitted to shooting down the Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed just outside Tehran shortly after takeoff from Tehran's international airport on Wednesday.
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, released statements Saturday morning claiming the country's military “unintentionally” shot down the jetliner, but claimed that "US adventurism" led Iran to down the aircraft.
While CBS primarily complained about “scavengers” randomly plucking debris from the site and highlighted the inexplicable lack of security, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell called the Iranian regime out for deliberately destroying evidence.
Grenell linked to German-language reports about bulldozers on the scene:
CBS reports indicated large portions of the downed aircraft’s fuselage have been removed from the site, which would be difficult to explain as the work of random scavengers rushing to grab a few souvenirs.
Iranian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Hamid Baeidinejad on Friday denied bulldozers were clearing the crash site, even though they have been captured in photographs and video recordings.
(Deleted previous tweet to clarify terminology)— Giancarlo Fiorella (@gianfiorella) January 9, 2020
Images of heavy machinery in use at the #PS752 crash site: right (35.561029, 51.104018) and left (35.559296, 51.104630)
Sources: https://t.co/FKfLwnbePQhttps://t.co/n8nUUT75SH pic.twitter.com/rJmGdsYsg8
Furthermore, Iranian media outlets have posted photos of objects removed from the crash site and neatly arranged for convenient display.
At a news conference on Friday, Iranian officials displayed what they claimed was one of the “black box” flight recorders recovered from the aircraft and said it could take “one or two months” to recover its data, while a full investigation of the incident could take “one or two years” to complete.
But later it appeared to back away from that position and indicated it might be willing to share the boxes, or at least the data it claims to extract from them, with foreign investigators.
“Generally speaking, Iran has the potential and know-how to decode the black box. Everybody knows that,” Iranian Civil Aviation Authority chief Ali Abedzadeh boasted to CNN on Thursday, perhaps sensitive to how Iran’s intransigence might give the contrary impression.
“The black box of this very Ukrainian Boeing 737 is damaged,” Abedzadeh said.
"Ukrainian Aviation experts arrived here in Tehran today.
"We had a session with them. From tomorrow they will start decoding the data."
He did not elaborate on what “very Ukrainian” means or explain how Ukrainian technicians might have altered the flight recorder in a way that makes it difficult to read.
Intelligence agencies around the world announced on Thursday that the plane was very likely destroyed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, specifically a Russian-built SA-15.
U.S. officials implied satellite intelligence helped them reach this determination quickly.
Some video footage leaked out of Iran appears to show an object rising rapidly from the ground and impacting the plane, causing it to burst into flames.
Iran finally admitted responsibility for the crash Saturday via Iranian state television and referred to a statement from the military, citing “human error” for the strike.
Iranian officials later suggested that President Donald Trump was to blame for their military shooting down the passenger plane and killing all 176 innocent people on board.