Friends, classmates remember Waterloo students killed in Iran plane crash
'I have to accept it, that he is not around anymore,' childhood friend of crash victim says
Alireza Mohamadizadeh remembers going to school with Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani in 2002 in Iran when they were 12 years old, but the two friends lost touch.
Several years later, they bumped into each other on the campus at the University of Waterloo.
"I saw him and immediately we recognized each other. And we started to talk about the moments and memories that we had back in middle school," Mohamadizadeh recalled Wednesday. "It was so fun. He was so intelligent. He was so smart. He was so kind."
Esfahani was among the 176 people who died Wednesday when a plane crashed in Tehran, the capital of Iran.
Esfahani had gone home to Iran to get married, and was returning to campus to finish his research.
"He left everything behind," Mohamadizadeh said.
Two students remembered
Students, staff and faculty gathered inside the university's Student Life Centre to mark the deaths of two students.
Esfahani was doing a PhD in civil engineering. Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan was working on her PhD in geography.
They were both on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 to Kyiv, which had 138 passengers travelling to Canada, when is crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran. Everyone on board the plane died.
Two students from the University of Guelph also died in the crash: Milad Ghasemi Ariani and Ghanimat Azhdari.
The room at the University of Waterloo was quiet but emotional during Wednesday's vigil. People wiped tears away as they listened to speakers, including university president Feridun Hamdullahpur.
Mahyar Shafii is a researcher at the university and said the deaths are a big loss.
"It's kind of devastating because not only are they young but they were at a turning point in their life because they immigrated, they came abroad to study," he said.
"It's a kind of a challenging process and once you realize things are paying off, then something like this happens," he added.
"Being young is a factor here, but the fact that they have been through a lot of challenges in the past few years to get here, that's another aspect that has to be highlighted."
Mohamadizadeh says it will take time to process that his friend won't be returning to campus.
"I have to accept it, that he is not around anymore. I can't do anything," he said.
He said he also feels some frustration over sanctions that limit where Iranians can fly. Currently, people from Iran cannot land in U.S. airports.
"Due to the stupid sanctions we only have one or two options left, which are not high-quality flights," he said. "So I wish he could buy a more expensive ticket … to get high quality flights."