200312 Iran Ukraine
General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Montreal: Canada and other countries asked Tehran to delay downloading data on the black boxes from a downed Ukrainian international flight, because of coronavirus travel restrictions, Ottawa said Sunday.

Iran had in March agreed to hand over black boxes from Flight 752 to Ukraine or France for analysis — a move welcomed by Canada and Ukraine.

The boxes are expected to contain information about the last moments before the Ukraine International Airlines jetliner was struck by a missile and crashed shortly after taking off from the Tehran airport on January 8.

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Last week, Iran contacted the countries involved to ask when they could send experts to help download the data off the black boxes, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

While stressing that the concerned countries are “anxious for the download and analysis of the recorders to proceed,” TSB president Kathy Fox said that they all “provided a consistent response, indicating that travelling was impossible at this time, and likely for some time to come” due to restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The Iranian military had admitted that the plane was shot down due to “human error.” Out of the 176 victims, 57 were Canadian citizens and 29 were permanent residents in Canada.

TSB added that representatives or experts from the involved countries should be present when the black box data is downloaded, and that the process should therefore be postponed until “conditions improve enough to allow for safe travel.”

“We still expect Iran will carry through with its commitment to have the recorders downloaded” once conditions improve, Fox said.