The Transportation Safety Board said Thursday Canadian investigators will be on hand “wherever and whenever” Iran finally downloads the information contained on the black boxes from the Ukrainian jetliner shot down in Tehran on Jan. 8.
In a written update on Canada’s involvement in the investigation, the agency said the two TSB air-crash investigators who went to Iran eight days ago to join the probe into the plane disaster are returning to Canada.
But the TSB said when the flight-data and cockpit voice recorders are ready for download Canada will send a second team of specialists to participate.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne demanded Iran send the boxes, which are heavily damaged, to either France or Ukraine to be downloaded. Canada argues that Iran does not have the technology to do it.
The TSB investigators spent the last two days in Kyiv with Iranian and Ukrainian teams in part to begin assessing whether the recorders can be processed in Ukraine.
However the TSB said Thursday the black boxes are still in Iran and Iranian authorities are looking at trying to download the information there.
Canada’s request for the recorders to be sent to Europe was echoed by the United Kingdom, Sweden, Afghanistan and Ukraine, all of which also lost citizens in the crash. Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed minutes after take-off on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Three days later Iran admitted the plane was downed by at least one missile from a surface-to-air battery.
Ottawa said 57 Canadian citizens and 29 permanent residents of Canada were on the flight. In all 138 of the passengers were on their way to Canada, many of them students and professors returning after the December break. The Canadian Press has identified 93 passengers with ties to this country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a Liberal caucus meeting Thursday that Canada is pushing Iran hard for answers.
“We will continue to be there for families and communities who are suffering and trying to rebuild their lives at a time of bleakness,” he said.
“But we will also keep working on the international stage to get answers, to get justice, to work with our allies, friends and partners around the world to ensure that we are getting the answers for Canadians that they need to get to be able to get closure and to move forward as a country on this national tragedy.”
The TSB noted that getting information from the black boxes is not the only thing left for the investigators to do.
“While this activity may provide additional critical data, there is much more analysis required of all the information gathered in order to determine the many factors that caused or contributed to this accident,” the TSB said.
The two Canadian investigators spent six days in Tehran meeting with officials from the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau of the Islamic Republic of Iran, visiting the accident site and examining wreckage that had been moved to a separate location.
The TSB says Iran has been “co-operative and helpful” with the Canadian investigators thus far, and allowing Canada more access than is required under the Convention on International Civil Aviation. However Canada is seeking even more from Iran, asking to be allowed to participate in all aspects of the investigation, and to get access to all relevant data.
“Adding Canada’s world-class expertise in independent air transportation safety investigation to this international effort would mean a lot to those affected by this tragedy, whether in Canada, in Iran, in Ukraine, and around the world,” the TSB said. “It could become a significant example of co-operation in the aviation industry on the world stage.”