Iranian search teams found today the wreckage of an Aseman Airlines plane that went missing in the Zagros mountains two days earlier with 66 people on board, a spokesman said.
Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared in the Zagros range on Sunday morning, around 45 minutes after taking off from Tehran.
After two days of heavy snow and fog, the weather finally cleared on Tuesday morning, giving helicopter teams much better visibility.
“The Revolutionary Guards’ helicopters this morning found the wreckage of the plane on Dena mountain,” spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state broadcaster IRIB.
An IRIB reporter who spoke to one of the pilots said he had seen “scattered bodies around the plane” and that it was located in Noghol village, around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) up Dena mountain.
“Since yesterday the Guards’ drones started carefully identifying the geographical area where the plane had probably crashed and this morning two helicopters of the air forces were dispatched to the location,” Sharif said.
Snowmobiles were deployed earlier on the 4,409-metre (14,465-foot) peak, where more than 100 mountaineers have also been aiding the search.
“Last night, a number of people stayed on the mountain and through coordination with local guides managed to search all crevices,” Mansour Shishefuroosh, head of a regional crisis centre, told the ISNA news agency.
Some 500 images taken by drones were being analysed overnight, he added.
The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service since 1993, flew early Sunday from Mehrabad airport towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south.
Poor visibility meant some 60 helicopter sorties on Monday could find no trace of the plane.
A team of crash investigators from French air safety agency BEA were also due to arrive in Iran on Monday, but their arrival had not yet been confirmed.
The incident has reawakened concerns over aviation safety in Iran, which has been exacerbated by international sanctions over the years.
Aseman Airlines was blacklisted by the European Commission in December 2016.
It was one of only three airlines barred over safety concerns — the other 190 being blacklisted due to broader concerns over oversight in their respective countries.
Iran has complained that sanctions imposed by the United States have jeopardised the safety of its airlines and made it difficult to maintain and modernise ageing fleets.