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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Russian Passenger Jet Crashes In Iran

Aired February 19, 2003 - 15:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are continuing to follow this "Breaking News" story. An airliner crash in Iran. Iranian state television reporting this passenger plane with more than 250 aboard has gone down in Southeastern Iran. According to Reuters, they are now reporting -- it is now reporting that 270 people are dead, after this plane crashed. The plane was traveling between two Iranian cities when radio contact was lost.
On the phone with me right now is IRB reporter Mahmoud Ahmadi.

Mahmoud, what can you tell us?

MAHMOUD AHMADI, IRB REPORTER: Hello. What I can tell you is that the airliner did not go down in Eastern Iran. It actually crashed somewhere in South-Central Iran. It had taken off from an airport in Eastern Iran, and it lost contact with airport at about 18 hours local time. And what I can tell you is that the number of those on board is about 280 people.

And what is concerned now is that the plane has gone down somewhere in Kerman Province. And the Iranian cabinet has just sent a message of condolences. And what I can tell you further is that the plane was a Russian passenger plane or something like that, and it was carrying about 280 people, probably military personnel. And you don't have any report -- any report or any picture from the crash site. But what we know is that all those on board are feared dead.

PHILLIPS: OK. Mahmoud, we were getting mixed reports. We were first being told it was possibly a military aircraft. But I want to confirm you are saying this is a Russian passenger plane with military personnel on board.

Is that correct?

AHMADI: Right. That's correct.

PHILLIPS: OK. And there were other reports saying it was an Antonov plane, which is a type of plane. Have you heard that, if indeed that's the type of plane it was?

AHMADI: Yes, actually, earlier reports spoke of an Antonov plane crashing. What we have now is that the plane -- what is certain is that it's Russian.

PHILLIPS: OK. And you said 280 people on board...

AHMADI: More than 250 is confirmed, but, yes -- but what we know is that the number is more than that. It could be around 280 people.

PHILLIPS: Do you know why it crashed?

AHMADI: No, there is no report on that.

PHILLIPS: Do you know if it could have crashed with another aircraft?

AHMADI: Well, we have not had such a thing, but we had a report from the area that -- the local people in the village, which is close to the crash site, they have -- they speak of a big bang actually, the sound of a big explosion midair, but -- sorry, not midair, but down there. So most probably it's not -- there is not any report of any commission, mid-air.

PHILLIPS: Can you tell us where this plane was coming from and where it was going and the purpose that these military personnel had? Where were they headed and what for?

AHMADI: We know that the plane had taken off from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the provincial capital of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which is in the east of the nation. And it was bound for Kerman, which is in south central Iran. And we know that it went down in an area called Shahdad, several hundred kilometers from the provincial capital. As for the purpose of the trip, there is no report on that yet.

PHILLIPS: OK. And I'm just now getting word that this is a common way for military family members to travel at a good price. It might not necessarily be military soldiers, but rather military members. Have you heard anything, Mahmoud?

AHMADI: Well, military planes could be used for civilian purposes, and this is quite commonplace anywhere in the world. Iran is no exception, of course. But, as I told you, we don't have any confirmed report of the identity of the people.

PHILLIPS: OK. Mahmoud Ahmadi, a reporter for IRB, we appreciate your time and bringing us as much information as you've been able to obtain. Once again, if you're just tuning in, an airliner crash in Iran, the south central part of Iran, according to a reporter there that we've been talking to, also Iranian state television.

This passenger plane had more than 250 people on board. The reporter there telling us military personnel. We're also getting word this could have been military family members. The plane was traveling between two Iranian cities when radio contact was lost.

We'll continue -- we don't know why it went down, why it crashed. The reporter we were talking to said that there were reports of hearing an explosion. We'll continue to follow this story and bring you as much information when we get other details. We're going to take a quick break.

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