'The loss is too great': Calgarians mourn victims of Iran plane crash

Still shocked and saddened, dozens of Calgarians gathered to light candles and pay respects to those who died aboard a Ukrainian passenger plane earlier this week.

Candlelight vigil draws dozens in the freezing cold in downtown Calgary

Despite the cold, dozens of Calgarians gathered Friday night to remember the victims lost in Wednesday's air crash outside Tehran, Iran. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Still shocked, saddened and searching for answers, dozens of Calgarians gathered Friday night to remember those lost in a crash involving a Ukrainian passenger plane earlier this week.

There were tears and hugs as lit candles were placed beside photos of the Albertans who were killed when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran's airport early Wednesday local time.

The crash killed all 176 people on board, including 57 Canadians.

'We're shocked and numb'

CBC News has confirmed two Calgary-based victims — local student Arshia Arbabbahrami and aircraft mechanic Kasra Saati.

Arbabbahrami was a student at Western Canada High School, located just down the street from the vigil.

He had plans to attend medical school, having moved to Calgary three years ago.

Yasmin Salehi, one of Arbabbahrami's close friends, said the two met at the high school and quickly became close.

"We went to each other's house, we spent New Year's together, everything together," Salehi said. "It's unbelievable that this has happened. We're shocked and numb. At this point, I don't even have any tears."

Yasmin Salehi was a close friend of Calgary high school student Arshia Arbabbahrami, who died in Wednesday's crash. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Salehi said Arbabbahrami's friends in Canada quickly became important to him, especially considering the fact that his family remains in Iran.

"We're all immigrants here," she said. "But Canada is our home, and so is Calgary. So we really appreciate everyone coming here tonight."

Being here is to honour his memory.- Parsa Heydarali, Arshia Arbabbahrami's roommate

Parsa Heydarali said he had been Arbabbahrami's roommate for six months.

"I can't believe it. It's too unreal for me. The loss is too great," he said. "I'm feeling, like, empty. We used to hang out all the time, we used to talk, we used to play computer games."

Heydarali said Arbabbahrami was his first friend in Calgary.

"Everything reminds me of him. He reached out to me and helped me get through everything," he said. "It's too much. But being here is to honour his memory."

Parsa Heydarali said he had been Arshia Arbabbahrami's roommate for six months. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

'It's so heartbreaking'

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

Nina Saeidpour got to know Saati and his family in 2013 when they landed in Calgary as newcomers.

"He was there to visit his family and was just coming home," Saeidpour said. "Unfortunately, he never made it."

Student Arshia Arbabbahrami, left, and aircraft mechanic Kasra Saati are two Calgarians that died in Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752. (Supplied by Parastoo Soleimani/Supplied by family of Kasra Saati)

Saeidpour said it was heartbreaking to hear news of what had happened, but it was emotional to see the support from the dozens of Calgarians who attended the vigil.

"It's very important, when you see something that happened to your community. It gives you a good feeling [to see the support]," she said. "We are here in a country to make that country our home. It's so nice to see that other people support you."

Canadian and Iranian flags were displayed together as candles were lit on Friday night in downtown Calgary. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Two University of Calgary alumni who had moved away from Calgary were also among the dead, the university said Thursday.

Calgary's vigil was one of several held across the country on Friday.

Another will be held at the Triwood Community Association in Calgary on Saturday, while a public memorial will be held in Edmonton on Sunday.

Other victims

In Edmonton, 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

The disaster was the largest loss of life among Canadians since 1985, when 268 Canadians died after a bomb exploded on an Air India flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

University of Alberta professors Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand, along with their daughters, from left, Daria and Dorina, were killed in the crash. (zaghtweet1/Twitter) (zaghtweet1/Twitter)

Iran announced Saturday that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.

With files from CBC Edmonton, Reuters, Dave Gilson and David Bell


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