Mamadou Zoungrana bought his wife and two sons tickets for Air Algerie Flight AH5017 in what was meant to be the first leg in their trip to join him for a new life in Gatineau, Que., after two years apart.
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But less than a day before he was scheduled to pick them up at the airport in Montreal, he heard the news that the flight was presumed to have crashed in northern Mali.
"Every day, I've been counting down," he told CBC News. "I didn't know it would end like this."
Zoungrana is originally from Burkina Faso. He said he has been working as a nurse's assistant at Papineau Hospital in Gatineau as part of a plan to bring his family to Canada. He was supposed to pick them up in Montreal Thursday night.
"I planned the whole thing," he said.
He has not received confirmation from the airline that they boarded the flight, but as more time passes, he is losing hope, he said. His sons, Brice and Arsène, are ages six and 13.
"If I had more information — are there survivors? Are there no survivors? — I would be doing a little bit better," he said. "I don't know if I should sleep. What should I do?"
He said his family would not be included in the count of five Canadians confirmed to have been on the flight.
In total, 116 people were on the flight that departed from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, en route to the Algerian capital of Algiers on Thursday. Officials say the plane's wreckage has been found in Mali.