'My heart is broken': Windsor family mourns loss of couple killed in plane crash in Iran
Leah Smithies, stepson hosted Samira Bashiri, Hamidreza Setareh Kokab in their home and became friends
"We love you so much and we miss you so much."
These were among the last words Leah Smithies and her stepson Chris heard from Samira Bashiri and Hamidreza Setareh Kokab, a married couple who were among the 63 Canadians killed in this week's plane crash in Iran.
The Smithies family hosted Bashiri and Kokab as Airbnb guests in their home after the two moved to Windsor, Ont., in December 2018. The couple eventually moved out as Airbnb guests, but in September 2019 moved back in as tenants.
About a week ago, the couple, who had been visiting family in Iran, sent the Smithies a video, saying they were looking forward to returning to Canada.
"My heart is broken," said Leah. "I can't imagine that they [are] gone. [On Tuesday] I made a bed for them. I told them I'm waiting for you today and I will come and get you."
Before the crash, Bashiri had been working in a lab at the University of Windsor, where Kokab was a PhD student. The two were among five from Windsor confirmed as having died in the crash.
Over the last several months, the couple and the Smithies had spent a lot of time together under one roof, bonding and eventually becoming like family.
'It feels kind of raw and it really hurts'
All 167 passengers and nine crew aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 died when the plane plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff. The regularly scheduled trip to Kyiv lifted off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport just after 6 a.m. Wednesday local time.
"It's just starting to sink in," said Chris about the loss of the couple. "It feels kind of raw and it really hurts because he was like a brother and she was definitely like a sister to me."
The Smithies remember Bashiri and Kokab as kind, caring and selfless.
"We will never forget them," said Leah. "They have been like children to us. We [were] very, very close."