Early Wednesday morning, a passenger jet heading to Ukraine from Iran crashed minutes after taking off in the Iranian capital of Tehran, killing 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians and several people with connections to Canada, according to Ukrainian officials and friends of the victims.
Ukrainian International Airlines has released a list of the passengers on board the plane, which was headed to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
The airline said most passengers were transiting through Kyiv to other destinations. The airline offers an inexpensive connecting flight from Kyiv to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
In a flood of tributes posted to social media, friends of some listed passengers identified them as university students, professors and professionals returning to Canada after the winter break.
Neda Sadighi, GTA
A clerk at a Richmond Hill eye clinic confirmed that optometrist Dr. Neda Sadighi was on the plane after visiting Tehran for 10 days on vacation. According to the clinic’s website, Sadighi is an eye surgeon who started practising in Tehran before coming to Canada. She’s a member of the College of Optometrists of Ontario, and the Iranian Association of Ophthalmologists.
Suzan Golbabapour, GTA
At a Remax office in Richmond Hill, a realtor said real estate agent Suzan Golbabapour was also a passenger on the plane, after travelling to Iran last month for holidays.
University of Waterloo students Marizeh (Mari) Foroutan and Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani
A spokesperson with the University of Waterloo said they are aware the names of two phD students, Marizeh (Mari) Foroutan and Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani, listed among the dead on the flight.
Foroutan was a student in the university’s geography department, while Esfahani studied civil engineering, the school said.
A friend of Foroutan’s, Jaya Sree Mugunthan, told the Star she was an Iranian international student at the school, calling her an “ambitious person.”
University of Guelph students Milad Ghasemi Ariani and Ghanimat Azdahri; Azhdari’s partner, Hamed Alibeiki
The University of Guelph also confirmed two of its PhD students were passengers: Ghanimat Azhdari, of the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics; and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, who was pursuing a PhD in the Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies.
Azhdari’s partner, Hamed Alibeiki, was also killed in the crash, the school said.
University of Guelph associate professor Faisal Moola confirmed in a tweet that Azdahri was one of his PhD students. “Ghanimat was on her way back to @uofg after visiting her family and traditional Indigenous territories in Iran over the December break. The students and I are in so much pain,” he wrote.
University of Alberta professors Mojgan Daneshmand and Pedram Mousavi, with daughters Daria and Dorina
Masoud Ardakani, the University of Alberta’s associate chair of electrical and computer engineering, confirmed in an email that professors Mojgan Daneshmand and Pedram Mousavi were on the flight, along with their daughters Daria and Dorina.
Nooran Ostadeian, who has known them since 2010 when she helped them find a home as a real estate agent, said the couple was among her closest friends in Edmonton.
“They were like an example of the happiest couple that I’ve ever known in my life,” Ostadeian said. “I want them to be remembered as a symbol of love, community members who did a lot of dedication and contribution to the community. Great teachers for their students.”
Iman Ghaderpanah and Parinaz Ghaderpanah, Toronto
Sam Green, the owner of a GTA real estate agency, said Toronto-based mortgage broker and realtor Iman Ghaderpanah was on the plane travelling with his wife, Parinaz Ghaderpanah, on holiday. “They are just a young couple, and they were building a life together,” Green said. “It’s a tragic situation.”
Parisa Eghbalian and her daughter, Aurora
At the Aurora Dentistry, assistant Manija Ghotbi told the Star that owner Parisa Eghbalian had left for vacation last month with her daughter, and that both were on the airplane that crashed. “We’re all devastated,” said Ghotbi, who added Eghbalian’s husband is getting ready to fly to Tehran.
Faezeh Falsafi and her two children, GTA
Faezeh Falsafi, a Richmond Hill real estate agent, was travelling back to the GTA from Tehran with her two children, said her colleague Olga Moss.
Falsafi had worked at Homelife Bayview Realty Inc. since 2016, Moss said, calling her an “amazing” and “very hard-working” person.
“She’s gone with her two kids,” said Moss. “It’s just gut wrenching.”
Ardalan Ebnoddin-Hamidi and Niloufar Sadr, their son Kamyar Ebnoddin-Hamidi, Metro Vancouver
Get more of the Star in your inbox
Never miss the latest news from the Star. Sign up for our newsletters to get today’s top stories, your favourite columnists and lots more in your inbox
A family of three from Metro Vancouver was also killed in the crash, according to the chair of the Tricity Iranian Cultural Society.
Ardalan Ebnoddin-Hamidi, his wife, Niloufar Sadr, and their 16-year-old son, Kamyar Ebnoddin-Hamidi, lived in Port Coquitlam and were visiting Iran, according to Behzad Abdi.
Abdi said said he and Ardalan had known each other since going to university in Iran and that Ardalan had come to Canada as a civil engineer specializing in tunnels to help build the SkyTrain Evergreen extension to Coquitlam.
“When he worked he was very serious,” Abdi, said of his friend. “But he was a funny guy as well.”
Abdi said Ardalan was an active volunteer and helped organize many events through the society. His wife had just finished training to become a teacher two months ago.
York University student Sadaf Hajiaghavand
Friends of Sadaf Hajiaghavand, 27, confirmed that she was a second-year human resources student at York University. Naz Moayed said that Hajiaghavand quickly became one of her closest friends after the women who met at York University bonded over the discovery that they both arrived in Canada mere days apart from each other in 2016.
“It’s really hard,” Moayed said. “I can’t believe that she’s not here. I just spoke with her two days ago.”
Moayed said Hajiaghavand was a Canadian permanent resident and was in Iran visiting family for 10 days.
“She was kind and into fashion,” she said. She said Hajiaghavand worked two jobs including as a beauty consultant at a Toronto cosmetic store. She also pursued modelling on the side.
Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, Edmonton
Also on the plane were young newlyweds Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, of Edmonton. Payman Paseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in Edmonton, said they’d married just days before boarding the plane.
Pourzarabi was working on a graduate degree in artificial intelligence at the University of Alberta, and his supervisor, Prof. Michael Bowling, said the couple loved to spend their free time driving around and exploring new parts of Edmonton.
Bowling described Pourzarabi as “so bright.”
“Not just smart, which you have to be doing a graduate degree in artificial intelligence,” he said in an email, “but he brought a brightness to each meeting … particularly with his smile.”
Bowling said Pourzarabi had recently gotten some “exciting” experiment results that could help an AI system respond better to unseen circumstances, and planned to start writing a paper when he returned to Edmonton.
Alina Tarbhai, Toronto
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation confirmed one its members, Alina Tarbhai, was on the flight.
“All of us who work at OSSTF/FEESO’s Provincial Office in Toronto are shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague,” the federation said in a release.
“Alina was a valued employee, and part of a tightly-knit team at Provincial Office. She was respected and well-liked by all. Her passing represents a profound loss for all of us who worked with her.”
Toronto Grade 10 student Maya Zibaie
Northern Secondary School principal Adam Marshall confirmed to the Star that Grade 10 student Maya Zibaie was on the plane with her mother. She had been at the school for two years.
“It’s pretty devastating,” he said.
In a statement sent to parents and the school community, Marshall described Zibaie as “kind, happy and well-liked by her peers.”
“She was new to Canada, enjoyed attending high school and often shared with staff how excited she was about her future and reaching her academic goals. Maya will be sorely missed.”