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A20F0002: News conference opening remarks

Associated links (A20F0002)

Kathy Fox, TSB Chair
Natacha Van Themsche, Director of Investigations (Air)
13 January 2020

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Kathy Fox

Good afternoon, and thank you for coming here today.

Early on January 8, 2020, Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 crashed shortly after taking off from the International Airport in Tehran, taking the lives of all 176 people on board. For their families and loved ones, the world changed overnight. Then, over the weekend, their world changed again when the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledged that its own military was responsible for accidentally firing missiles and downing the aircraft.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) extends its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the people who perished in this tragedy.

We have been in direct contact with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Islamic Republic of Iran since shortly after we learned of the accident. As announced last Thursday, and given the high number of Canadian fatalities, we have confirmed our role as an expert and accepted Iran’s invitation to attend the accident site as entitled in Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Two TSB air accident investigators left Canada on Friday evening and, over the weekend, met up with members of the Canadian consular team in Turkey. They have since obtained visas to travel to Iran and departed earlier today for Tehran, along with members of Canada’s Consular team.

In addition, the TSB will also deploy a second team of investigators with expertise in aircraft recorder download and analysis once we confirm where and when this activity will take place.

This is not the first time we have sent our investigators overseas. The TSB is seen as a world leader, and we have participated in foreign investigations for almost 30 years.

In this investigation—and I want to be clear about this—we do not yet fully know what the scope of our role will be. However, I also want to stress that so far, the Iranian AAIB has responded in compliance with international protocols. Furthermore, there have been early signs that Iran is allowing the TSB to play a more active role than normally permitted, for example, by inviting TSB investigators to participate in the download and analysis of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders—again, whenever and wherever that takes place.

After every accident, there are many questions. Everyone wants to know “what happened”. Well, we know that now. Everyone also wants to know “how” or “why” did it happen.  And we have certainly heard the many questions being asked in the wake of this tragedy. We have the same questions.

It has already been reported that our role is quite limited by Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. As the “State of Occurrence,“ the Islamic Republic of Iran and, specifically, its Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, has the right to lead the safety investigation. The roles of other states with a special interest are also similarly prescribed. As the lead investigation agency, the Iranian AAIB is also responsible for communicating information about the progress and results of the investigation, and we are bound to—and will—respect that.

In this case, especially because 57 of the passengers on the aircraft were Canadian, it is our hope that the TSB will be allowed to bring more of its expertise to a thorough and transparent investigation. As an independent accident investigation agency, we will also collaborate with other international investigation authorities with whom we have long-standing and well-developed relationships—including those from France, Sweden, the UK and the US, as well as Ukraine.

The purpose of an Annex 13 safety investigation is to find all causal and contributing factors to an accident, without attributing blame or civil or criminal liability, to address safety deficiencies and prevent similar accidents from happening again. Experience has shown that a thorough safety-focused investigation offers the best chance of confirming what really happened and providing the answers that everyone is asking for, particularly for the families who lost so much.

We all want answers, and sharing information is a cornerstone of trust. The world deserves to know how and why events unfolded as they did. We commit to providing the best expertise we can, but we must let the investigators do their work. We will only be able to release information specific to the progress and results of the investigation to the extent determined by the Iranian AAIB. I can assure you, though, that we will continue to advocate for a full explanation of what happened and why, and we will speak up if we feel that answers are not forthcoming.

Thank you.