14 people with ties to B.C. confirmed dead in Iran plane crash
Several B.C. residents were flying home after holidaying in Iran when the Boeing 737 crashed, killing 176
Fourteen people with ties to B.C., including students, doctors, academics, couples and multiple members of the same families, have been confirmed among those killed when their Ukrainian Airlines flight crashed in Iran on Wednesday.
All 176 people on board the Boeing 737 died when the plane went down shortly after takeoff from Tehran, Iran's capital.
Fifty-seven were Canadian.
Among the dead with ties to B.C.:
- Delaram Dadashnejad: An international student studying at Langara College.
- Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, Niloofar Razzaghi, and Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi: A husband, wife and their son from Port Coquitlam, B.C.
- Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani: A couple from North Vancouver.
- Ayeshe Pourghaderi and Fatemah Pasavand: A mother and daughter from North Vancouver.
- Naser Pourshaban Oshibi and Firouzeh Madani: A couple from North Vancouver.
- Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari and Zeynab Asadi Lari: Siblings and alumni of the University of British Columbia (UBC).
- Mehran Abtahi: A postdoctoral fellow at UBC.
- Roja Omidbakhsh: A student at the University of Victoria.
Many of those above had strong connections with the Iranian-Canadian community in Metro Vancouver, centred in the Tri-Cities and on the North Shore. Four were members of the UBC school community.
"People are really, really shocked by this tragedy," said Shideh Taleban, community librarian at North Vancouver City Library. "The community is trying to be with each other, to reach out to each other, to see how they can support each other."
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 on Wednesday morning.
Her friend, Sia Ahmadi, said she 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.
Ahamadi last spoke with Dadashnejad before she took off. He said they FaceTimed and she showed him a bracelet she was going to buy for his wife, who was her best friend.
"I just couldn't believe it. She was a great friend. She had lots of people [around her]. Everybody started talking about [the crash last night] and contacting me [asking] if it's true ... and I was like, I hope it's not," said Ksenia Ivanova, Ahamadi's wife and Dadashnejad's friend. "It didn't sink in with me until this morning."
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.
Ivanova spoke about Dadashnejad in an interview on Wednesday:
Ardalan Hamidi, Niloofar Razzaghi and Kamyar Hamidi
The 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, east of Vancouver, after a two-week holiday. Kei Esmaeilpour, a family friend and head of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians, confirmed the deaths.
"The community are in shock and are in deep sadness. They feel ... why. Why is this happening?" Esmaeilpour said.
Esmaeilpour said Ardalan was an engineer who had worked on the SkyTrain system in Metro Vancouver. Razzaghi was a two-time graduate of UBC: the university confirmed she earned her bachelor of science degree in 2010 and a bachelor of education in 2018. She was working to become a teacher.
Esmaeilpour said the couple's son, Kamyar, was a "happy, social," 15-year-old boy.
Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani
A couple in their 30s, Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani are also among the dead. A cousin said Saket worked as a lead structural engineer at Denna Homes, a real estate development company in North Vancouver. Kazerani had worked as a dental hygienist.
Saket helped with construction of the building he and his wife would later call home.
Farzad Taheri, whose father is a cousin of Saket's mother, said the couple were making their way home from holidays in Iran, where they were visiting family.
He said they were self-made and moved to Canada in search of a better life.
"We're all in shock ... they were all such lovely people to everyone close, far, anyone who knew them were just so fond of them and no one can believe what happened. They deserve to be acknowledged and they have so many people who love them all over the world," he said.
"[The were] so kind ... always smiling. My wife was just saying earlier how even if no one was around, Daniel was always smiling."
Farzad Taheri says everyone was fond of them and no one can believe what happened
Ayeshe Pourghaderi and Fatemah Pasavand
Ayeshe Pourghaderi and her teenage daughter, Fatemah Pazavand, also lost their lives. Their family owned Amir Bakery, a traditional Persian bakery in North Vancouver.
Arash Azrahimi, who was their neighbour for two years, said the daughter was a student at Carson Graham Secondary and sometimes worked for the family business.
He said the pair were permanent residents and were excited to become Canadian citizens, often asking to borrow his computer to check the status of their immigration applications.
"They are a very hardworking family. They came to Canada for a better life and this happened," he said.
Naser Pourshaban Oshibi and Firouzeh Madani
Naser Pourshaban Oshibi and Firouzeh Madani were also killed. Both were in their 50s.
Their daughter, Kimia Pourshaban Oshibi, 19, had returned early from their family trip to Iran — on the same route — in order to attend classes. She is an undergraduate student in biomedical physiology at Simon Fraser University.
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.
A grieving Kimia Pourshaban Oshibi talks about her parents:
She last spoke to her 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," Pourshaban Oshibi said, her voice breaking.
The family had immigrated to Canada in 2013. Pourshaban Oshibi and Madani are trained as family doctors and were struggling through the Canadian licensing process.
"I would just like to make a point that all of the professionals that come here from Iran go through a really tough time to provide services for Canadians," she said.
"It went through my mind that my parents had a lot of dreams and things they wanted to achieve and their time has been cut short."
Zeynab Asadi Lari and Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari
The University of British Columbia (UBC) said Zeynab Asadi Lari and her brother, Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari, two of its alumni, were among the dead. The siblings, both in their 20s, had been living in Toronto.
Zeynab enrolled at UBC in the BSc program, with a biology major, in 2016. A statement from the university said Mohammadhossein graduated in 2018 with a BSc in cellular, anatomical and physiological sciences with honours standing.
Erica Frank, a professor and Canada Research Chair at UBC, wrote in an email to CBC that Mohammadhossein's death is "an astonishing and excruciating loss."
"His heart and brain were both outsized and he was one of the most prescient, promising, and generous people I've known," wrote Frank.
Frank wrote that she was impressed with his "extraordinary" work as an undergraduate, and had just submitted letters of recommendations for him to the University of Toronto, Cambridge, Harvard, and Stanford, and the two of them had planned on finalizing his application to Oxford.
"Mohammad's death is an enormous loss for public health globally," she wrote.
In an email, Parnian Hosseini described Asadi Lari as one of her best friends. She dreamed of becoming a doctor and although she transferred to the University of Toronto, she considered Vancouver home.
"It was hard not to laugh when she was around, she had an incredible sense of humour and made sure to keep us grounded by roasting us every now and then," Hosseini said.
"No matter what was going on in her life, she would always make time for others and support them through anything. She had touched the lives of so many people and we will feel her absence in our lives.
Parsa Shani, an undergraduate student, said he knew both the siblings. He said he considered Mohammadhossein a role model and that he was a leader "in the realms of science, innovation, STEM education, [and] political apathy," having worked with Justin Trudeau to develop Canada's youth policy.
"It's heartbreaking to see that the two of them are gone together," he said.
"We lost two treasures and from their impact in their communities to their impact in the realm of global health policy and raising youth awareness about the key issues young people face in Canada — I think we really lost two people at the forefront."
UBC said it is offering support on campus and held a vigil on campus on Thursday night.
Mehran Abtahi was a postdoctoral fellow in the civil engineering department at UBC. He joined the university in October, according to a statement from the school. He was in his late 30s.
Flags at both UBC campuses in B.C., in Vancouver and Kelowna, were lowered to half-mast on Thursday.
Roja Omidbakhsh was a first-year business student at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Prof. Mark Colgate taught Omidbakhsh in his commerce class during her first term at the university and said she was pursuing her degree in the subject.
"Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing," Colgate wrote in a statement released by the school on Wednesday. "We're heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates."
Mobina Rafieipour said Omidbakhsh, who was in her early 20s, was one of her best friends at the university. The two of them had met after moving to Victoria in August.
She said Omidbakhsh was adjusting to life in a new country and had recently found an apartment in Victoria, where she planned on moving with another friend from Iran. Rafieipour last spoke with her the night before what should have been her flight home.
"She was a smart girl who knew how to communicate with [others] effectively, and she was always there for me whenever I needed her," she said.
"I absolutely trusted her ... It's really hard for me to believe that she's gone forever."
UVic said it is offering support for students on campus.
The flight and Canada's response
The Boeing 737, bound for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, burst into flames as it crashed into a field not far from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
The flight was a popular, lower-cost route for Canadians travelling to Iran, in the absence of direct flights, and carried a number of students and academics heading back to Canada after the winter break.
The cause of the crash has not been determined. It was the airline's first fatal crash, and it said it was doing everything possible to establish the cause. The plane went down hours after Iran launched missiles at bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq, and officials cautioned that speculation about what happened was premature.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 people aboard the flight were ultimately travelling to Canada, at least 57 of them Canadian citizens.
Trudeau has said the Canadian government "will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians' questions are answered." Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Canada "is offering technical assistance to the upcoming investigation."
In a tweet, B.C. Premier John Horgan said "our hearts and thoughts are with families and friends of loved ones lost and the Iranian-Canadian community in B.C."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, three Germans and three Britons were also among the dead.
With files from Yvette Brend, Tina Lovgreen, Jodi Muzylowski, Roshini Nair, Reuters, Canadian Press