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Minister Among 29 Dead in Iran Plane Crash
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A plane carrying at least 29 people including Iran's Transport Minister Rahman Dadman and deputy ministers and members of parliament has been found with all on board dead, a civil aviation official told Reuters.
The Russian-made Yak-40 aircraft went missing in a mountainous area close to the northern town of Sari early on Thursday on a flight to the town of Gorgan, near the border with Turkmenistan.
Along with the minister, two deputy transport ministers and seven MPs from the Gorgan region were flying to the town to inaugurate a new airport, the official IRNA news agency said.
The pilot had contacted air traffic controllers reporting bad weather and said he might return to Tehran or make an emergency landing in Sari.
-- Carl Jenkins (email@example.com), May 17, 2001
The plane, a Russian-built YAK-40, was operated by Faraz Qeshm Airlines, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 18, 2001.
Iranian Plane Hit by Lightning
by AFSHIN VALINEJAD Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A Russian-built aircraft that crashed in northeastern Iran, killing the transport minister and about 30 other passengers, was struck by lightning, according to a preliminary investigation Friday.
The government declared two days of mourning as investigators recovered the black box from the wrecked YAK-40 on the side of a muddy and frosted mountain, about 13 miles from the city of Sari, Behzad Mazaheri, the civil aviation chief, told state television Friday.
Search parties had recovered 24 bodies by late Friday, an official with the search team said on condition of anonymity. Officials said earlier that at least 14 victims had been identified.
According to a preliminary study, the aircraft was struck by lightning before it crashed in a heavy storm on Thursday, Mazaheri said.
He did not provide any other details.
Among the dead were Transport Minister Rahman Dadman, seven legislators and about 23 others. They were on their way to Gorgan, near the Caspian Sea, to inaugurate the city's airport. Conflicting reports put the number of people on board between 29 and 32 people.
The control tower at Sari airport lost contact with the pilot after 7:38 a.m. local time on Thursday when he reported that he was returning to Tehran because of bad weather. The two pilots and three other crew members were Armenians.
The site is some 310 miles west of where Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said Thursday that the plane had crashed.
''The Iranian nation and government are enduring bitter moments,'' President Mohammad Khatami said in a statement read on state television.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his ''sorrow'' and then in a statement, he announced that Saturday and Sunday would be days of national mourning.
A mass funeral for those killed will be held Sunday in front of the parliament, the statement said.
-- Rachel Gibson (email@example.com), May 19, 2001.