BANDAR ABBAS, Iran (AP) — Iranians mourning a 23-year-old airline tragedy tossed flowers in the Gulf on Sunday at the site where an Iranian passenger plane was downed by a U.S. warship, killing all 290 aboard in an incident Washington describes as a mistake but many in Iran consider a deliberate attack.
More than 80 relatives of those killed in the July 3, 1988 downing of the Iran Air A300 dropped red, white and pink flowers into the sea. More flowers cascaded down from helicopters.
The USS Vincennes shot down the Dubai-bound airliner shortly after it took off from Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. Washington said the Vincennes mistook the airliner for a hostile Iranian fighter jet. Iran maintains it was an ordered attack — a month before the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
“The crime by the United States is never forgivable. The stain will remain on the U.S. forever,” said Hesameddin Ansari, 34, who lost his father in the crash.
Abbas Barati, a resident of Bandar Abbas who was 16 years old when the plane went down, said the city was overwhelmed with the bodies pulled from the sea.
“There was not enough space in the forensic center to keep bodies of victims,” he said. “Many of them were kept in any available cold place.”