Canada

What we know about the Iran plane crash victims who were headed to Canada

One hundred and thirty-eight of the people killed on the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran were connecting to Canada. Here is what we know about some of them.

57 passengers on Flight PS752 were Canadian citizens; many others had ties to the country

Zeynab Asadi-Lari, who was studying to be a doctor, was killed when Flight PS752 came down. Her friends tell The National about her life and her dreams that will never be fulfilled. 2:01

They were dentists and doctors, whole families with small children, a newlywed couple and students returning from holidays.

Many were academics and professors, pursuing careers in engineering, computer science, business and finance.

They were among the people with connections to Canada who were killed when Flight PS752 crashed Wednesday shortly after taking off from Tehran's main airport on its way to Kyiv. All 176 people aboard were killed, including 57 Canadians — revised down from an earlier estimate of 63.

They had roots across the country, in six provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

"It's devastating and shocking," Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, who knew many of the Edmonton victims.

"All these wonderful people ... these people who really were actually impactful in our community, they're not among us anymore. And in one incident all of them are gone."

In addition to the 57 Canadians aboard the flight, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko listed these nationalities on board Flight PS752:

  • 82 Iranians.
  • 11 Ukrainians (two passengers, nine crew).
  • 10 Swedes.
  • 4 Afghans.
  • 3 Germans.
  • 3 Britons.

A memorial was set up at Borispol Airport in Kyiv — the intended destination of Flight PS752 —  and the mourners included the family of the crew. Ivan Halopenko, the father of Flight PS752 Capt. Volodymyr Halopenko, told CBC News's Corinne Seminoff that his son loved his work like he loved the skies.

Ivan Halopenko, the father of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 Capt. Volodymyr Halopenko, visits a memorial to the flight at Boryspil Airport in Kyiv. Flight PS752 was headed for Kyiv when it crashed outside Tehran. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC News)

Here's what we know so far about the victims with Canadian connections.

British Columbia

Kimia Pourshaban Oshibi, 19, lost her parents Naser Pourshaban Oshibi and Firouzeh Madani, of North Vancouver, in the crash.

A student at Simon Fraser University, she had returned early from their family trip to Iran — on the same route — in order to attend classes.

WATCH: Pourshaban Oshibi talks about her parents, and her devastating loss

Families reeling after deadly Ukrainian airliner crash. 2:08

Pourshaban Oshibi, an only child, described her mom as a kind and smart person. 

"She would make friends very, very easily and everyone would think she was their best friend," she said.

She last spoke to her mother a few hours before the ill-fated flight. 

"We talked about what she would do on the flight, and what she would do after and that's it," she said, her voice breaking. 

Oshibi's parents were both trained as family doctors and were going through the Canadian licensing process after immigrating in 2013.

Delaram Dadashnejad, 26, was flying home to Vancouver after a visit with family in Tehran over the holidays. Her sister and a friend confirmed her death to CBC News.

Sia Ahmadi, a friend, said Dadashnejad had originally planned to fly back on Dec. 17, but missed that flight and booked Wednesday's instead after her student visa did not arrive on time.

Delaram Dadashnejad, 26, was studying nutrition at Langara College. (Ksenia Ivanova)

Dadashnejad had been studying nutrition at Langara College. The school's president, Lane Trotter, said in a statement he was "heartbroken" over Dadashnejad's death and that the college would be offering support to students.

A family of three — Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, his wife, Niloofar Razzaghi, and their teenage son, Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi — were on their way home to Port Coquitlam after a two-week holiday. Kei Esmaeilpour, a family friend and head of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians, confirmed the deaths.

Ardalan was an engineer who had worked on the SkyTrain system in Metro Vancouver. Razzaghi had recently graduated from UBC to work as a teacher. Esmaeilpour said the couple's son, Kamyar, was a "happy, social," 15-year-old.

A North Vancouver couple in their 30s, Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani, were among the dead. Saket worked as an engineer, according to a cousin, and Kazerani was a hygienist. 

B.C. residents Ayeshe Pourghaderi and her teenage daughter, Fatemah Pasavand, also died. The family owns a Persian bakery in North Vancouver, and Pasavand was a student at Carson Graham Secondary.

Roja Omidbakhsh was a first-year business student at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island. A professor of hers remembered her as "very positive."

Mehran Abtahi was a postdoctoral fellow in the civil engineering department at the University of British Columbia. He joined the university in October, according to a statement from the school; flags at UBC's Vancouver and Kelowna campuses were lowered to half-mast on Thursday.

Alberta

Initial reports from multiple sources and community members indicated that as many as 30 people connected to the Edmonton community died in the crash. So far, CBC News has been able to confirm 13 names from that community, as well as two with ties to Calgary.

Mojgan Daneshmand and her husband Dr. Pedram Mousavi, along with their daughters Daria and Dorina, were also  confirmed among the dead. 

Both Daneshmand and Mousavi were professors at the University of Alberta in the faculty of engineering, and were on the flight with numerous other Edmontonians, said Payman Parseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in the city.

University professors Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand, along with their daughters, from left, Daria and Dorina, are among the dead. (zaghtweet1/Twitter) (zaghtweet1/Twitter)

Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Northgate Centre Medical Clinic in Edmonton, and her two daughters, were also killed, Parseyan said. 

Both daughters were University of Alberta students. Saba Saadat was studying medicine; her sister, Sara, was a clinical psychology student.

Among the many Albertans killed in the crash was Grade 12 student Arshia Arbabbahrami, the Calgary Board of Education confirmed. Arbabbahrami was an international student at Western Canada High School, and was returning to Canada after spending the holidays with his family in Iran. 

"Arshia was highly involved in athletic activities, such as the track and field and swim and dive team," the board said in an emailed statement. "He dreamt of being a doctor and was a leader in our community who many students looked up to."  

Kasra Saati, an aircraft mechanic formerly with Viking Air, was the second Calgary-based victim, CBC News has confirmed.

"He was just ordinary guy, you know, trying to make a better future for himself and his family and of course their kids," said Nina Saeidpour, a family friend.

Nasim Rahmanifar, a mechanical engineering student at the U of A, had told a friend she was excited to go home to Iran during the school break to surprise her family. Her boyfriend Amir Hossein Saeedinia, who was coming to the U of A to do his PhD in mechanical engineering, was also killed in the crash.

U of A also announced that student Elnaz Nabiyi and alumnus Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi were killed in the crash.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, both in their mid-20s, were graduate students in the U of A's computer science program. They had travelled to Iran for their wedding, said Akbari, of Edmonton's Iranian Heritage Society.

Friends said Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji got married in Iran on Jan. 1 but planned to celebrate with a ceremony in Edmonton on their return. (Supplied by Amir Forouzandeh)

Akbari said he heard the couple was accompanied by four friends who travelled with them to celebrate the wedding.

WATCH | Community mourns after mother, 2 daughters killed 

A mother and her two daughters from Edmonton killed in the crash are remembered for their shared passion to help people. 2:51

Manitoba

A family of three from Winnipeg was on the plane when it went down. Mohammad Mahdi Sadeghi, who went by Mahdi, his wife, Bahareh Hajesfandiari, and their daughter, Anisa Sadeghi, were travelling together. 

Mojtaba Montazeri, a close friend of the family, tried to describe them without breaking down in tears. "It's hard to hold together and speak about that. Everyone is heartbroken now," he said, pausing every few words to swallow his emotion.

Winnipeggers Bahareh Hajesfandiari, Mahdi Sadeghi and Anisa Sadeghi were together on Flight PS752. (Submitted by family)

Forough Khadem, who graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2016 with a PhD in immunology, was also on the plane. She was described as a promising scientist by Jude Uzonna, an associate professor of immunology at the U of M.

Uzonna and Khadem had texted while she was in Iran. Both expressed their concerns about air travel in a text, given recent U.S.-Iran tensions.

"I am utterly devastated and trying to grapple with this," said Uzonna.

Amirhossein Ghassemi Bahabadi had been living in Winnipeg for just over a year to pursue a master's degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Manitoba.

Ontario

Three men on the flight had ties to McMaster University in Hamilton: Iman Aghabali, Mehdi Eshaghian and Siavash Maghsoudlou Estarabadi.

Aghabali and Eshaghian, both PhD students, posted photos from the airport in Tehran before boarding.

Friends of Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian say they took a picture together after passing the gates before boarding Flight PS752 which crashed in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers. (Reza Safari)

Reza Safari, a research assistant at the school, knew them both.

"The good thing is they look happy," he said of the photos. "I can see their happy faces. I can see their smiles."

Estarabadi, who was listed on the flight manifest, spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow in the faculty of health sciences and left McMaster in 2018, the school said in a statement late Wednesday.

Dr. Sarah D. McDonald, Canada research chair of the school's obstetrics and gynecology department, described Estarabadi as "kind and thoughtful." Estarabadi was focused on "important" work on the causes of preterm birth, McDonald told CBC News.

Mahdieh Ghassemi, 38, and her two children Arsan Niazi, 11, and Arnica Niazi, 8, were killed in Wednesday's crash. (Submitted by Reihaneh Vahedi)

CBC News has confirmed the identities of over two dozen victims with ties to Toronto, including on Thursday Mahdieh Ghassemi, 38, and her two children Arsan Niazi, 11, and Arnica Niazi, 8,

"I cannot stop cryng," said Reihaneh Vahedi, a close friend of Ghassemi, who lived in North York.

"Arsan was a gifted boy. He was talking [in] three languages and he liked airplanes," Ghassemi said.

"Arnica was really kind and gifted too … She loved dancing, singing, acting and drawing." 

Vahid Emami confirmed to CBC Toronto that his daughter Sophie Emami, 5, and his wife, Sahand Sadeghi, 39, were killed. The three lived together in their North York home.  

Emami's brother-in-law Alvand Sadeghi and sister-in-law Negar Borghei, both in their late 20s, were also killed in the crash. The pair resided in Toronto, but Borghei was studying in Montreal.

Iman and Parinaz Ghaderpanah were volunteers with the non-profit Iranian-Canadian group Tirgan. A fellow community volunteer said the pair were 'deeply in love and both were very active in community affairs.' (Submitted by Houtan Seirafian)

Iman and Parinaz Ghaderpanah, who were volunteers with the non-profit Iranian-Canadian group Tirgan. They were in Iran to help raise money for an upcoming arts festival, spokesperson Mehrdad Ariannejad confirmed.

Ramin Alaen is married to the sister of Parinaz Ghaderpanah. Alaen told CBC News that he did not reveal the news of the flight to his wife, who gave birth a baby girl in Toronto on Wednesday morning, until hours after the delivery.

Watch: Husband keeps Iran crash tragedy secret until wife gives birth.

Ramin Alaen's wife was pregnant when she lost her sister— Parinaz Ghaderpanah — on Ukrainian Flight 752. Within hours of having a baby girl, his wife was finally told by Alaen that her sister had died in the crash.  9:05

A family of three from Ajax was also killed. Omid Arsalani told CBC News on Wednesday that his 30-year-old sister Evin Arsalani was travelling back to Canada with her husband Hiva Molani and their one-year-old daughter Kurdia.

Omid Arsalani, who last spoke to his sister on Jan. 2 for her 30th birthday, said the loss has left his family heartbroken.

"At this point, I don't care how it happened. All I care is that I lost my family members," Arsalani said through tears in a phone call.

Hamed Esmaeilion is dealing with the loss of his wife, Aurora, Ont.-based dentist Parisa Eghbalian, and their daughter Reera Esmaeilion.

Esmaeilion spoke to CBC News about the difficult phone call he had to place to his daughter's elementary school.

"I told them that Reera will be absent forever. That was a hard moment for me," said Esmaeilion.

"We had a very, very good life. I think it was not right, I think it was not fair what happened," he added.

WATCH: Hamed Esmaeilion talks about losing his wife and daughter in the crash.

Husband grieves wife and daughter killed in Iran crash. 2:08

Arad Zarei, 18, was a student at Richmond Green Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ont. He was in Iran to visit his mother.

"His loss will undoubtedly leave a gaping hole in the lives of the many he touched," said his father Mehrzad Zarei in a statement.

Four University of Toronto students have been identified as victims of the crash, as well. Mojtaba Abbasnezhad, a first-year international PhD student, was an Iranian citizen who lived in Toronto while studying electrical engineering, his close friend and classmate Pooya Poolad told CBC News. 

Poolad was supposed to be on the trip with Abbasnezhad, but had to cancel before they left.

Fellow U of T students Mohammad Salehe, Zeynab Asadi-Lari and Mohammad Hossein Asadi-Lari have also been confirmed as passengers on the plane, while Northern Secondary School in Toronto confirmed that Grade 10 student Maya Zibaie died in the Wednesday morning crash.

Mohsen Salahi and Mahsa Amirliravi both worked at Cestar College in North York, Ont., for three years, the school said in a statement.

"Mohsen and Mahsa were fantastic teachers, touching countless students' lives during their time here at the college. But they were also tremendous individuals, forming strong bonds with many staff and faculty, and they will be greatly missed by fellow instructors, the academics team, and the college as a whole," the college said. 

Sadaf Hajiaghavand, 27, was a second-year human resources student at York University. Her friend, Naz Moayed, said that Hajiaghavand became one of her closest friends after the two York students bonded over the discovery that they both arrived in Canada days apart from each other in 2016.

Suzan Golbabapour, a Toronto real estate agent and personal trainer, was also among the victims.

Suzan Golbabapour was a Toronto-based real estate agent and personal trainer, described by her employer as "a bright light within our community." (Re/Max Integra/Facebook)

Alina Tarbhai, an administrative clerk at the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, and Mississauga, Ont., sales consultant Shadi Jamshidi were also identified by colleagues as among the dead. Tarbhai's mother, Afifa, who was travelling with her, also died. 

The Tarbhais were part of a religious pilgrimage group, led by Asghar Dhirani of Markham, Ont. His wife, Razia, had returned home safely on an earlier flight.Their daughter, Rehana, told CBC News her father was her best friend. 

"He was selfless … he was a hero not only to me but to many people," she said in a tearful phone interview. 

Bahareh Karamimoghadam, also from the Toronto area, told a friend before she boarded the flight that she was worried about the rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. 

Saeideh Kirby, who lives in New York, said before she left, Karamimoghadam told her, "I'm worried for my parents; I'm worried for my brother; I'm worried for the people of Iran."

WATCH | Saeideh Kirby mourns the 'buddy' she lost in Iran crash

Saeideh Kirby describes her best friend, Bahareh Karamimoghadam, who was travelling back to the Toronto area on the plane that crashed near Tehran. 0:49

Elsewhere, university communities lost students and teachers.

Western University lost four students in the plane crash: engineering students Ghazal Nourian, Hadis Hayatdavoudi, Milad Nahavandi, and Sajedeh Saraiean, who was about to start a graduate program. 

"This is a difficult time, we are deeply saddened and it's important for all of us to come together as a caring community," said Alan Shepard, president of the London, Ont., university, in a statement. The university set up a vigil and is providing counselling services to other students. 

Western University has set up a memorial for students killed in the plane crash. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

Ghanimat Azhdari was a 36-year-old PhD student at the University of Guelph doing research in the college of social and applied human sciences.

Faisal Moola, a university of Guelph associate professor, described his Azhdari as a "firecracker" who had the ability to command people's attention through a strong personal narrative. Azhdari herself was a member of the Qashqau tribe in Iran, and had done a lot of work in the country advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said.

Milad Ghasemi Ariani, 32, was also a PhD student at the University of Guelph, the school said.

Victims Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani and Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan were PhD students at the University of Waterloo: Esfahani in civl engineering and Foroutan in geography.

Zahra Naghibi was a PhD student at the University of Windsor's Turbulence and Energy Lab. She was also chair of the IEEE Young Professionals group. Naghibi's husband, Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi, also died in the crash. 

And Pedram Jadidi was a PhD student in civil engineering. He was described by Javad Sadeghi, another University of Windsor PhD student and friend, as "very lovely and very ambitious."

Samira Bashiri and her husband Hamid Setarah Kokab are two more victims connected to universities in Canada.

Bashiri worked as a researcher at the University of Windsor, while Kokab was a PhD student studying mechanical engineering there.

 
Samira Bashiri, left, was a researcher at the University of Windsor, where her husband, Hamidreza Setareh Kokab, right, was a PhD student in mechanical engineering. (Submitted by Sahar Nikoo)

Lisa Porter, a fellow researcher who supervised Bashiri, said she was a veterinarian in Iran who planned to begin graduate school in Windsor in September. 

"This is a tragic loss for all of us, and we are so devastated for her family and friends back home," said Porter.

Hassan Shadhkoo left Toronto Wednesday night to travel to the crash site in Iran to mourn his wife, Sheyda Shadkhoo.  

He told CBC News that he spoke to her right before the plane took off from Tehran and that he told her everything would be OK.

Watch | Mourning his wife after Iran crash

Hassan Shadkhoo says his wife of 10 years, Sheyda Shadkhoo, 'saved his life' and that he lived for her. 2:03

Faraz Falsafi, who studied at McGill and later moved to the Toronto area, was also killed in the crash after visiting family in Iran. A friend remembered his passion for camping with friends and photography.

At least eight people with ties to Ottawa died in the air disaster, including three University of Ottawa students: Alma Oladi, a PhD student in mathematics at the University of Ottawa; Saeed Kashani, who was also working toward a PhD at the University of Ottawa; and Mehraban Badiei, who had just finished her first semester and was in Iran visiting her mother and father for the holidays, according to a family friend.

Fereshteh Maleki moved to Canada two or three years ago and was looking forward to being able to rest this year after returning from her daughter's wedding in Tehran, according to her friend, Saeideh Shabani.

Roja Azadian was supposed to travel to Canada for the first time with her husband, who has been studying at Algonquin College in Ottawa, but a mix-up over his ticket meant he couldn't get on the plane with her.

Carleton University student Fareed Arasteh was grateful to have the chance to study molecular genetics in Canada, said Carleton University professor Ashkan Golshani.

"He was doing a fantastic job. Very nice guy. Very soft-spoken. Such a gentle soul," said Golshani.

Arasteh had travelled to Iran to marry his his long-time girlfriend, Maral.

Mansour Pourjam, a denture technician, leaves behind a 13-year-old son. "He was lovable. He was truly someone who made you laugh," said Robert MacLeay, the owner of the Ottawa Denture and Implant Centre, where Pourjam worked.

Alireza Pey, who owned the tech startup Message Hopper, is survived by two daughters.

Quebec

The deceased included residents of Montreal and Valcourt.

Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, had returned to Iran to get married. Both had earned a master's degree in engineering at Concordia University.

Ali Dolatabadi, one of Ghafouri-Azar's thesis supervisors, described him as a kind, diligent and talented student. 

"When he started with us, he was working hard ... he really established a new methodology that we will use and are using [in our work]," he said.  

Siavash Ghafouri Azar studied engineering and completed his master's at Concordia University. He just recently married his wife, Sara Mamani. (Submitted by Nader Jafari Nodoushan )

Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh each recently received their PhDs in engineering from Montreal's École de technologie supérieure and had been travelling in Iran.

They were a "lovely couple," said Ali Barzegar, a former colleague of Morratab. "He was a brilliant man." 

Montrealer Shahab Raana, who was in his 30s, was also on the flight, according to his longtime friend Hamïdreza Zahèdi.

He had come to Canada "for a better future" and was studying welding. 

Niloufar Sadr was a mother of three who family had deep roots in Montreal's Iranian community.

Sahan Hatefi Mostaghim, left, and Shahab Raana, minutes before their flight took off from the airport in Tehran. (Submitted by Hossein Ensafi Moghaddam)

Raana and Sahan Hatefi Mostaghim were training to become welders at a Montreal technical college and were travelling back back from Iran together.

Zahèdi said Raana posted a message to an Iranian group on the Telegram app yesterday, saying he managed to get on a Ukrainian flight out of Tehran.

"I am inside the Ukrainian plane right now, on my way to Montreal. Awaiting takeoff. For the time being, all a go for the flight," Raana wrote.

Mohammad Moeini, 35, was an employee at Bombardier Recreational Products in Valcourt, the company confirmed.

Nova Scotia

Dalhousie student Masoumeh Ghavi, 30, had been on holiday visiting family in Iran and was travelling back to Canada with her younger sister, Mahdieh Ghavi, 20, who was to study in Halifax.

Masoumeh Ghavi was working on her master's degree in engineering at Dalhousie University and working part-time at an IT company in Bedford. (Instagram)

Meanwhile, Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi were two graduate students enrolled in Saint Mary's master of finance program.

Another member of Halifax's Iranian community, which numbers about 2,000, who died in the crash was Sharieh Faghihi, a dentist who had been visiting her mother in Iran with her daughter, who returned to Halifax a few days ago.

She helped set up a dental centre for disabled children in Iran, according to a 2015 Dalhousie alumni newsletter.

"The amount of caregiving she gave to her patients, it was amazing," said Reza Rahimi, a friend of the family. "I keep thinking someone will wake me up and say it was just a dream."

With files from Ioanna Roumeliotis, Tina Lovgreen, Michelle Ghousshoub and CBC News Network

now