'Love, you could see it in their faces': Family of 3 killed in crash remembered for warmth, generosity
'This was a family that intended to achieve things together'
This is part of a series on the B.C. victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which crashed near Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people on board.
The last time Majid Zolein saw Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi, they were squeezed into the warm Hamidi family kitchen with 20 friends on a dreary October day.
Kamyar, 15, was making everybody pancakes.
Zolein became close friends with Kamyar's mother and father, Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi and Niloofar Razzaghi, when they all lived in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Zolein and his wife were invited back to the Vancouver suburb last fall, after their move to the Okanagan, for a weekend visit and breakfast with their friends.
Kamyar, remembering Zolein does not eat dairy, set aside a batch with dairy-free ingredients so his guest wouldn't be left out.
"He gave it to me and said, 'Here — so you can have some," Zolein said.
The couple often opened their home to bring people together, Zolein said, noting they were generous, loving, tender-hearted people who fostered a sense of family virtually everywhere they went.
The family of three was killed along with 173 other people when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 went down in Tehran, Iran, minutes after takeoff on Wednesday. Sixty-three people on board the Kyiv-bound plane were Canadian and 138 passengers had connections to Canada.
As governments and political watchers focus on the cause of the crash, families and friends of the victims are trying to figure out how to move forward through unthinkable grief.
Zolein said any of the hundreds of losses is excruciating, but to lose an entire family is incomprehensible.
"I talked to [Ardalan's] brother-in-law and he could barely talk. He just cried," said Zolein, 52, speaking by phone from his home in Penticton on Friday.
Like many of the passengers bound for Canada, the family was returning home after spending the winter holidays with family in Iran. It was Ardalan's father's 80th birthday.
Ardalan, 49, and Razzaghi, 45, stayed in regular contact with their family in Iran after immigrating to B.C. in 1998. They welcomed Kamyar in 2004.
Hundreds of people in the Tri-Cities came to know the family for their friendliness, generosity and hospitality.
Ardalan was recognized for his activism in the community and with civic issues, organizing all-candidates meetings for local Iranian-Canadians so they could participate in municipal, provincial and federal elections.
"He was a very passionate activist," Zolein said.
"He always was a giver ... Even people who met him once," Zolein continued. "One of them called me yesterday and was crying over the phone, saying they only met him one time, but he had [left a] deep impression."
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart met Ardalan when he led Stewart and another local mayor through a 150-metre underground tunnel during construction of the SkyTrain Evergreen rapid transit line. Ardalan was a civil engineer who designed and built large structures after working for years to have his foreign credentials accepted in Canada, Stewart said.
"To see his smiling face beaming when he got to tour two mayors with this project," the mayor said, trailing off as his voice thickened.
"I really felt warmth from this family. This was a family that intended to achieve things together," Stewart said in a video posted on Facebook. "This was a tremendous blow."
Razzaghi, who went by Niloo, was going to start a new job as a full-time high school math teacher in Surrey, B.C., after the family returned from their trip. She was a two-time graduate of the University of British Columbia: she earned her bachelor of science degree in 2010 and a bachelor of education in 2018.
The district said it was "heartbroken" over her death. Friends have said she was a loving, kind woman who kept family at the centre of her life.
She called her mother every morning after she woke up. In family photos posted online, a beaming Razzaghi always has an arm wrapped around her husband and son; her cheek pressed against theirs.
"Love, you could see it in their faces. In photos, you can see it in their faces," said Zolein. "They were full of emotion, passion and love."
More than anything, the couple was devoted to their only son.
Kamyar was a bright, talented teenager with insatiable curiously and wisdom beyond his age. He would tag along to civic engagement meetings with his dad, growing from an inquisitive child to a "walking dictionary" with the answers.
"He was a happy boy, a social boy, always volunteering in the community to do nice things. I remember Kamyar when he was 10 years old. Even at that age, he would always come to the events to help," said Kei Esmaeilpour, a family friend and head of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians.
Jessi Eiriksson, 15, said Kamyar was one of her best friends. Both were in Grade 10 at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
"He was the most caring person I have ever met. He was always there for me and he would be there for anybody whenever they needed someone to talk to,'' she told the Canadian Press.
"It's the hardest thing, losing him.''
Eiriksson said Kamyar loved making music, playing soccer and wanted to become a producer when he was older. Zolein predicted a future at NASA.
"When we share about them, people can understand. I'm hoping these tragedies can prevent other tragedies in the future ... this is such a huge loss.
"I can't imagine they're gone."
A celebration of life for the family and other passengers onboard flight 752 was held in Coquitlam on Sunday afternoon. Attendees waiting in a long line to get into the building where it took place.
Organizers said they expected around 300 people to come. More than 1000 attended.
With files from the Canadian Press