Kitchener-Waterloo

Friends, classmates remember Waterloo students killed in Iran plane crash

Students, faculty and staff gathered at the University of Waterloo Wednesday evening for a vigil for two students who died in the plane crash in Iran earlier in the day.

'I have to accept it, that he is not around anymore,' childhood friend of crash victim says

Alireza Mohamadizadeh went to school with Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani in Iran, but lost touch with his friend after 2002. Then, a few years ago, they bumped into each other at the University of Waterloo. Esfahani was among the 176 people who died Wednesday when a plane crashed in Tehran. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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, a researcher at the University of Waterloo, attended Wednesday's vigil and said the loss of two students is a loss for the entire university community. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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."

Frustrations felt

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."

People gathered at a vigil at the University of Waterloo Wednesday night to remember two students who died in a plane crash in Iran earlier in the day. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)
Students and faculty at the University of Waterloo are remembering two students who died in the crash of Ukraine Internationa Airlines flight 752. 63 Canadians were on board the flight. Marzieh Foroutan, who went by "Mari", was a PhD student of geography. Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani, was a PhD student of civil engineering. Wednesday evening at the University of Waterloo, the Iranian Students Association held a vigil for the two students. The CBC's Paula Duhatschek was there. 5:26

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