World mourns victims of Iranian plane crash as investigators continue to determine cause

World mourns victims of Iranian plane crash as investigators continue to determine cause

As mourners prepare for more candlelight vigils across Canada on Thursday to grieve the 176 victims of a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran, more information is coming out on the Canadian victims.

Also on Thursday, Iran released an initial investigative report about the crash, saying the jetliner’s crew were trying to turn back for the airport when the burning plane went down, noting that they never made a radio call for help. There’s no word on whether Canadian officials will be allowed to participate in the investigation.

The Boeing 737-800 crashed barely two minutes after takeoff Wednesday morning from Tehran’s airport en route to Kyiv. The majority of the 176 people on board — 138, including 63 Canadians — were headed for Canada.

Read more:

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Dozens of students and staff from Canadian schools coast to coast were among the victims.

  • The Toronto District School Board confirmed Thursday that at least five of its students were killed in the crash.

Sophie Emami was in senior kindergarten at Lillian Public School. Arsam Niazi was in Grade 6 at Pleasant Public School and Arnica Niazi was in Grade 3 at Finch Public School. Rahmtin Ahmadi was in Grade 4 at Muirhead Public School. Maya Zibaie was a Grade 10 student at Northern Secondary School.

  • The University of Toronto has identified six students killed in the crash in a Wednesday press release: Mojtaba Abbasnezhad, Mohammad Asadi Lari​, Zeynab Asadi Lari​, Mohammad Amin Beiruti​, Mohammad Amin Jebelli​ and Mohammad Saleheh.

“On behalf of the entire University of Toronto community, I want to say how deeply saddened we are, and how concerned we are for the families and friends of those who lost their lives,” U of T president Meric Gertler said in a statement. “We are continuing to gather information, and taking care to respect the privacy and wishes of all involved.”

  • Saharnaz Haghjoo, who was the manager of the Jump Scarborough program at the YWCA, was also killed along with her daughter, Elsa Jadidi. The program is designed to help resettle newcomers to the city.

Elsa had gone to school at Wali ul Asr in Brampton up until last year. A Facebook post from Wali ul Asr called Elsa a “wonderful girl who was always smiling.”

Haghjoo’s sister is one of Wali ul Asr’s central campus teachers. The school called Haghjoo as “a great supporter of the school,” always making a point to “express her gratitude and appreciation to Elsa’s teachers.”

  • Asghar Dhirani was remembered for his “vivacious personality on the golf course.” He was a religious leader and supporter of the non-profit Wali ul Asr school in Caledon, close friend Shaiq Ibrahim said. He would lead pilgrimages back to various religious sites in Iraq and Iran with the community.

“He was extremely helpful, kind, and polite,” the Wali ul Asr school wrote in a Facebook post. “He often told the school’s management ‘Please to not hesitate to ask, I will help the school in any way I can, whatever little I can do.’ ”

  • In London, Ont., the University of Western Ontario held a Wednesday night vigil for four graduate students who lost their lives in the plane crash:

Ghazal Nourian, a PhD candidate in Mechanial and Materials Engineering, Milad Nahavandi, a PhD candidate in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Hadis Hayatdavoudi, a PhD candidate in Chemistry and Sajedeh Sareian, an incoming Masters student in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

University president Alan Shepard called the deaths “devastating.”

“It’s just hearbreaking and difficult to comprehend,” Shepard told the Western News. According to the university’s paper, all four were international students.

London mayor Ed Holder was also in attendance.

“My heart breaks for the families, friends, and loved ones of all those lost in this horrible tragedy . . . on behalf of all Londoners, our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with you,” he tweeted Wednesday.

  • At the University of Ottawa, a professor of international affairs shared his condolences in a Twitter post for three students, Alma Oladi, Mehraban Badiei, and Saeed Kashani, who died in the crash.

“Deepest condolences to the families of three uOttawa students… and to all the other grieving families,” Roland Paris posted.

The university school paper featured Badiei, a first-year health sciences student who said her goals for 2020 were to meet new people and make new friends.

“Since the publication of this article on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, we were saddened to learn that Mehraban was a victim in the tragic Flight PS752 accident in Iran. We offer our sympathy and condolences to her family and friends,” the updated article read.

  • The Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association in Halifax expressed their condolences late Wednesday night for the loss of two students, Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi, who were studying for a master’s degree in finance.

“We would like to express our thoughts to the families, friends, and colleagues,” the association wrote in a statement. “If you or anyone else you know have been impacted by this tragedy, we encourage you to reach out for support from the following services.”

  • Masoumeh Ghavi, a master’s student at Dalhousie in IT and communications, and her younger sister Mahdieh were on their way to Halifax.

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Sadra Kord-Jamshidi, president of the Dalhousie Iranian Students Society, said Ghavi had just come to Halifax in September.

“She was the nicest and also a very hard-working individual. Being a self-funded master’s students working two jobs to make ends meet, she also offered the society her help in all of our events,” Kord-Jamshidi told the Star.

​A Tehran native, Ghavi had been working at MTN Irancell and Huawei previously, according to her Facebook profile. ​

  • ​The University of Victoria confirmed that first-year student Roja Omidbakhsh died in the plane crash.

“It is always a profound loss for the entire community when we lose someone, and our hearts and thoughts go out to Roja’s loved ones,” University president Jamie Cassels wrote in a statement Wednesday.

Omidbakhsh was a “very positive” student, professor Mark Colgate said.

“She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce . . . we’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.”

The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Ukraine’s capital city.

The report also says that both of the black boxes that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane have been recovered, though they sustained damage and some parts of their memory was lost.

It also says that investigators have initially ruled out laser or electromagnetic interference as causing the crash.

  • In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has spoken to his Iranian counterpart about the deadly crash but there is no word on whether Canadian officials will be allowed to participate in the ensuing investigation.

A summary of the phone call released Thursday morning by Global Affairs Canada says Champagne stressed to Mohammad Javad Zarif the need for Canadian officials to be allowed into Iran to provide consular services, help with identification of the deceased and to take part in the investigation.

Canada severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012, when it labelled the country a state sponsor of terrorism.

Champagne also told Zarif that Canada and Canadians have many questions about the crash, which killed 138 people who were en route to Canada, and condemned Iran’s missile attacks against military bases in Iraq.

Canadian soldiers were present in one of those bases.

Yet the summary did not provide any details about Zarif’s reaction to Champagne’s demands and Champagne’s office declined to provide any further information.

Under rules set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the countries where the crash happened, where the plane is registered, where the plane’s operator is located and where its manufacturer is based are all part of the investigation.

In this case, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board of the Civil Aviation Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in charge, while Ukraine will assist.

With files from The Canadian Press, May Warren and Ted Fraser

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