Christiaan Triebert+ Your Authors @trbrtc Visual Investigations @nytimes. Previously @bellingcat. Monitoring things, mostly niche. Retired hitchhiker. @quiztime. Usual caveats. Jan. 12, 2020 3 min read + Your Authors

After days of denial, Iran admitted it shot down a civilian airliner, killing all 176 people on board. We analyzed flight data, witness videos and crash site images to paint the clearest picture yet of that disastrous seven-minute flight. Watch it here: 

It’s 6:12 am on Wednesday, January 8, when Flight PS752 takes off from Tehran’s International Airport — just 10 minutes after Iran’s foreign minister said their ballistic missile attack on US military targets in Iraq had concluded.

The plane, operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, flew northwest, climbing to almost 8,000 feet in around three minutes, as several other civilian planes were also airborne, @Flightradar24 data shows. PS752’s transponder stops just before 6:15 am. We don’t yet know why.

Less than 30 seconds later, a missile explodes near the passenger jet over Parand, a city near the airport. That moment was captured on camera. You can see the missile. And the plane, which is set on fire by the explosion. 

Where did the missile come from? Just a few miles away are military sites with Iranian air defense systems. A missile launch near those sites was filmed by a security camera — located directly under the plane. 

The plane doesn’t crash immediately, but is set on fire by the missile explosion. We don't know the precise flight path after 6:15 am, but the plane continues flying and turns towards the airport. Those aboard must have suffered horrifying minutes as it is engulfed by flames.

This video, filmed around 6:18 am, might suggest a pilot is still alive. After losing altitude, the plane appears to be climbing again — perhaps trying to avoid crashing in a residential area. But seconds later, it goes down. No one on the ground was killed.

Here’s that moment of the plane crashing from a different angle. There appears to be a second explosion right before the jetliner crashes outside of Tehran, about 10 miles from where it sent its last transponder signal.

Debris is spread out over 1,500 feet, as this @Maxar satellite image shows. We mapped where which parts of the plane were found, but didn't find the cockpit, which is said to have been closest to the missile impact.

This suggest that the cockpit debris may have been removed from the crash site early on. Later, bulldozers heaped debris. Ukrainian officials say Iran wouldn’t have admitted responsibility if investigators hadn’t found missile debris in the wreckage. 

Reversing days of denial, Iran stated it had mistakingly identified PS752 as an incoming cruise missile. The admission triggered angry protests in the streets of Tehran and other cities, shouting “Liars!” and “Khamenei is a murderer!”

We, and many other online investigators like @Bellingcat and @Storyful, reported this story as it happened. This thread () details some of that, including geolocations, speed of sound analysis, flight data, and relevant weapons systems and military sites.

(As always, visual investigations are a team effort. NYT colleagues @whitney_hurst @malachybrowne @DrewJordan_NYT @thiefenthaeler @markscheffler @sskerr @therealDahliak @dim109 @evanchill @LaurenLeatherby @singhvianjali @jamesglanz @ndgauss and more)

(Also comparing notes and sharing info with many, incl. @bellingcat @EliotHiggins @AricToler @gianfiorella @Mabl2K @christogrozev @maxar @storyful @samueloakford @Joey_Galvin @NarimanGharib @ARastabi & more. Thank you. And of course impossible without Iranians uploading visuals)

(Also, expert info from @fab_hinz @RALee85 @oryxspioenkop. And, have to say again, all Iranians uploading material and sharing it with the world.) Last but not least, drawing PS752 & MH17 parallels inevitable. This read by @christogrozev worth sharing. 

You can follow @trbrtc.


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