Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne clarified that 57 Canadians were killed in the Ukraine Airlines plane crash in Iran earlier this week, not 63 as previously reported.
The new number is the result of “the most recent information we have received” based on birthdates and travel documents, Champagne said Friday, adding that the situation has been “very fluid” from the start.
Of the 176 victims, 138 were headed to Canada.
Iran admitted late Friday that its military “unintentionally” shot the plane down, and blamed "human error” for the strike.
Ottawa is now focused on getting Canada’s rapid response team to the crash site outside Tehran. Iran has said it would grant Canada access to the site, but 10 visas – which are necessary to enter Iran – still haven’t been issued as of Friday. So far, only two visas have been granted.
As Canadian investigators wait in Turkey for the go-ahead, Champagne said “the world is watching” Iran’s next move.
“We all know that in circumstances like the one we’re facing, time is of the essence. Every hour matters. And we are pursuing that vigorously with all the authorities and partners around the world,” Champagne said at a press conference in Ottawa, before Iran issued its statement.
DEBRIS MOVED TO HANGAR
Concerns were raised earlier Friday about the integrity of the investigation after it appeared that Iranian investigators had moved pieces of the plane from the crash site.
Champagne said he was aware of those reports.
“We understand that some of this debris has been moved to hangar at the airport to reconstruct the scene, that’s my understanding. And as I told you, we don’t have boots on the ground, so we work with assessment and what we receive,” he said.
All 176 people on board the plane were killed after the plane crashed in a field outside Tehran shortly after takeoff early Wednesday morning. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that intelligence indicates that a land-to-air missile struck the plane, but that the strike may have been accidental.
Iran had previously said it did not believe a missile was involved in the crash. Iranian officials also initially said they believed mechanical failure was a factor.
The plane crash came just hours after Iran fired multiple missiles at an airbase in Iraq that houses U.S. troops, in response to the killing of a top Iranian general. U.S. President Donald Trump said he ordered the deadly airstrike because Gen. Qasem Soleimani was plotting an imminent attack against Americans.
Trudeau privately met with families of the victims on Friday.