63 Canadians dead in Iran plane crash

TORONTO — Canada's foreign minister said Wednesday he's been in touch with the government of Ukraine upon learning that 63 Canadians died in a Ukrainian passenger jet, just minutes after taking off from Iran's capital.

Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne called it tragic news and said Wednesday Canada's "hearts are with the loved ones of the victims, including many Canadians." He vowed to keep Canadians informed as the situation evolves.

The crash of the Ukraine International Airlines plane came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the 3½-year-old Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Ukrainian officials initially agreed, but later backed away and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is ongoing.

The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from different nations. Ukraine's foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said that there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board — the Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. There were also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals, he said.

“My heart is broken. We will have to go through this terrible pain together with our Canadian brothers and sisters," tweeted Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada.

It's one of the worst loss of life for Canadians in a aviation disaster. In 1985 a bomb exploded and killed 329 people aboard an Air India flight. Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to New Delhi exploded over the Atlantic Ocean near Great Britain on June 23, 1985. Most of the victims were Canadian.

Canada closed its embassy in Iran in 2012 and suspended diplomatic relations.

Canada is urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Iran due to the volatile security situation, but the travel advisory makes no mention of the plane crash.

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