The wife of the pilot whose Ukrainian passenger plane crashed after taking off from Tehran says she warned her husband not to fly – and believes the aircraft was downed in a terror attack.
Kateryna Gaponenko told Sky News that she had “concerns” about the Ukrainian International Airlines flight and had pleaded with her husband Volodymyr not to captain the jet.
“Of course I had some concerns – I had a lot of concerns,” she said.
Video appears to show missile striking plane
She added: “I asked him not to fly. I said ‘don’t do it’. But he came back to me and said ‘who’s going to fly the plane if I don’t fly it? I’m on the schedule so I have to fly.’
“But I asked him to stay.”
Mrs Gaponenko was speaking as mourners left flowers and other tributes to victims of the crash at the airport in Kiev where the plane had been due to land.
Her husband was one of 176 people who died in the tragedy – including 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and four Britons.
More from Iran
Nobody on board the passenger jet survived and Western intelligence agencies are now convinced that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched by Iran.
Countries including Canada, the US and the UK believe the aircraft was likely struck accidentally, hours after an Iranian offensive against an two Iraqi military bases housing American personnel.
Image: The site where the plane crashed
Iranian officials have refuted such suggestions, despite video footage appearing to back the working assumption being adopted in the West.
Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador to the UK, has also dismissed “absurd” claims that bulldozers have been clearing the crash site – despite images obtained by US TV suggesting otherwise.
On the crash itself, Mr Baeidinejad told Sky News: “Plane accidents are a very technical issue. I cannot judge, you cannot judge, reporters on the ground cannot judge.
“Nobody can judge. A foreign minister or a prime minister cannot judge on this issue.”
Iranian envoy: ‘We don’t know about validity of videos’
The video seemingly showing the moment the plane was hit, thought to be by a Russian-made TOR anti-aircraft missile, was verified by The New York Times and investigatory website Bellingcat after circulating on social media.
The missile is seen travelling west to east (left to right on the video), with Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 barely visible and flying in the opposite direction as it climbs out of Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Source : Sky News