Iranian Passenger Plane Crashes, Killing 39

An Iranian passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff early Sunday morning, killing 39 and leaving 9 injured, according to Iranian officials.

It's believed that the plane, a 52-passenger Iran-140 operated by Sepahan Air, was en route from the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran to the eastern city of Tabas when it's tail struck the cables of an electricity tower and burst into flames. The tail, which was torn from the fuselage, was found mangled but mostly intact nearby the crash site. There are also rumors that engine failure might be to blame. An eyewitness told the AP that, "There was no smoke or anything. It was absolutely sound and in good condition."

One official, citing a similar accident, expressed pointed concern regarding the plane's maintenance. "Lawmakers visited the production site of the plane and expressed concern about its (safety)," IRNA quoted him as saying. "This company should have not been allowed to operate the plane to avoid such a bitter incident."

Iran has suffered a rash of plane crashes, perhaps a result of international sanctions that have made it difficult to tend to their aging fleet:

Iranian airlines, including those run by the state, are chronically strapped for cash, and maintenance has suffered, experts say. U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union's fall.

[Photo via AP]