Relief and grief: UWindsor student switches flights from deadly Iran plane crash, his friends killed
Faraz Talebpour describes it as 'the strangest feeling ever'
Faraz Talebpour had a seat on the plane that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people on board.
The University of Windsor student said he's overcome with both relief that he's alive after switching flights, and unimaginable grief that his friends are now dead. Five Windsor residents with ties to the university are among those killed.
"It's the strangest feeling ever. Everyone is happy [that I'm alive], but I'm sad," said Talebpour, speaking with CBC News via Skype from Tehran.
"Of course I'm happy that I'm alive, but then at the same time, I don't know. I don't know how to describe it," he added.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight was travelling from Tehran to Kyiv, with at least 63 Canadians on board, before it went down early Wednesday morning, local time. Most of those passengers were headed for Canada.
Family thought he was dead
Many of Talebpour's friends and family phoned him crying, leaving messages thinking he's dead. They must have forgotten that Talebpour told them he changed his flight to Monday.
Now, he's thinking about his friends who died, and their families. The best way to honour them, he said, is to let the community know who they really were.
"When I think of them, the first image of every single one of them that comes to mind is an image with a very bright, beautiful smile," said Talebpour. "They will be remembered always smiling, and that's amazing."
5 Windsorites killed
Samira Bashiri was working in a lab at the University of Windsor, while her husband Hamidreza Setareh Kokab was a PhD student in mechanical engineering at the same institution. Zahra Naghibi was a PhD student at the turbulence and energy lab, and her husband Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi also died in the crash. And Pedram Jadidi was a PhD student in civil engineering.
Looking over a manifest Talebpour found online, he said it was devastating. He didn't realize so many of his friends were in Iran, and on that flight.
A full list of the names of passengers and their birth years — ranging from 1950 to 2016 — was made available by authorities in Tehran and Kyiv within hours of the tragedy. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko sent out a tweet in what was the middle of the night in North America confirming their nationalities: 82 Iranians, the 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including the crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghan nationals, and three citizens each from the U.K. and Germany.
Tracking data suggests the flight climbed to just over 2,400 metres and reached a speed of 500 km/h before it plunged back to earth, crashing near a soccer field and irrigation canal outside the town of Parand, 30 kilometres northwest of the airport.