TEHRAN, Iran A plane carrying Iran's transport minister and seven members of parliament crashed in bad weather Thursday in northern Iran, killing at least 29 people, the Interior Ministry said.
Aviation officials lost contact with the plane early Thursday. It was located several hours later in the mountains between Gorgan and Shahroud, 200 miles northeast of Tehran, an Interior official said.
Transport Minister Rahman Dadman and the legislators were among the 19 passengers and 10 crew members aboard the plane, Tehran airport and parliamentary spokesman Jalil Sazgarnejad said. Everyone on board was killed, he said.
However, the head of the Civil Aviation Organization, Behzad Mazaheri, said there were 32 people on board. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained.
Dadman and his delegation were on their way to Gorgan to inaugurate the city's airport, where provincial officials were waiting to welcome them, Gov. Ali Asghar Ahmadi said.
Authorities at Sari last heard from the pilot at 7:38 a.m. "The pilot said that because of bad weather, they were heading back to Tehran," Ahmadi said.
It was raining heavily at the time, meteorologists said. Authorities searched for the plane using helicopters, aircraft and boats, as Sari and Gorgan lie near the Caspian Sea.
The deaths were not expected to affect the political balance in parliament, where reformists hold an overwhelming majority.
Dadman was appointed to the Cabinet in January.
The plane, a Russian-built YAK-40, was operated by Faraz Qeshm Airlines, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.