02/10/2020

A family of three and a family of four have been confirmed among the Canadian victims in Wednesday’s crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight that killed 176.

A family of three from Ontario, as well as two University of Alberta lecturers and their two daughters are among the 63 Canadians killed when a Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed near Iran’s capital early Wednesday morning local time. 
Flight PS752 an American-made Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on its way to Kyiv. The crash killed all 176 passengers and crew on board, Ukrainian officials said.
Those with Canadian ties hailed from British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta; at least 30 of them are believed to be from Edmonton, while a large number had ties to universities across the country.
There were also 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals on the flight, according to Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko. 
The cause of the crash is not yet known, though early comments from Iranian officials suggested possible mechanical failure. CBC News is following this story and will provide updates throughout the day.
WATCH: CBC News will be airing a special tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network, online, on our app, and on CBC Gem. You can watch it here. 
Parents, children among the victims
A family of three from Winnipeg was on the plane when it went down. Mohammad Mahdi Sadeghi, who went by Mahdi, his wife, Bahareh Hajesfandiari, and their daughter, Anisa Sadeghi, were travelling together. 
Mojtaba Montazeri, a close friend of the family, tried to talk about them without breaking down in tears. “It’s hard to hold together and speak about that. Everyone is heartbroken now,” he said, pausing every few words to swallow his emotion.
Mojgan Daneshmand and her husband Dr. Pedram Mousavi, along with their daughters Daria and Dorina, have been confirmed among the dead. 
Both Daneshmand and Mousavi were professors at the University of Alberta in the faculty of engineering, and were on the flight with numerous other Edmontonians, said Payman Parseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in the city.
“We lost a significant portion of our community,” Parseyan told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. “Everybody in Edmonton that’s of Iranian descent will know somebody that was on that flight.”
It was a coincidence, not an organized trip, that led so many from Edmonton to be on the flight, Parseyan said. As many international students can’t travel to the United States, he said, they instead opt to travel through European connections.
WATCH | Payman Parseyan talks about the loss to the Iranian community in Edmonton
Edmonton’s Payman Parseyan reflects on the ‘devastation’ after learning people he knew were killed in the Iran plane crash7:08
A family of three from Ontario was also killed in the early morning crash. Omid Arsalani told CBC News on Wednesday that his 30-year-old sister Evin Arsalani was travelling back to Ajax, Ont., with her husband Hiva Molani and their one-year-old daughter Kurdia.
Omid Arsalani, who last spoke to his sister on Jan. 2 for her 30th birthday, said the loss has left his family heartbroken.
“At this point I don’t care how it happened, all I care is that I lost my family members,” Arsalani said through tears in a phone call.
Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Northgate Centre Medical Clinic in Edmonton, and her two daughters, were also killed, Parseyan said. 
Both daughters are U of A students. Saba Saadat was studying medicine; her sister, Sara, was a clinical psychology student.
Aurora, Ont.-based dentist Parisa Eghbalian and her daughter Reera Esmaeilion were also identified by family as victims of the crash.
A North Vancouver couple in their 30s, Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani, are also among the dead. Saket worked as an engineer, according to a cousin, and Kazerani was a hygienist. 
Another couple from North Vancouver, Naser Pourshabanoshibi and Firouzeh Madani, were also on board the flight. Both were in their 50s and worked as doctors.
A family of three Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, his wife, Niloofar Razzaghi, and their teenage son, Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi were on their way home to Vancouver after a two-week holiday. Kei Esmaeilpour, a family friend and head of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians, confirmed their deaths.
Large number of victims researchers, students
Forough Khadem, who graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2016 with a PhD in immunology, is confirmed to have been on the plane. She was described as a promising scientist.
“Forough was one of my best PhD trainees, an outstanding scientist and above an amazing human being. I am utterly devastated and trying to grapple with this,” said Jude Uzonna, an associate professor of immunology at the U of M.
Researcher Ghanimat Azhdari is also among the victims confirmed by CBC News.
The 36-year-old PhD student at the University of Guelph was doing research in the college of social and applied human sciences, and is a member of an international group called the ICCA Consortium. 
That group is made up of other organizations that advocate for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples and their land. The ICCA released a statement later on Wednesday describing Azhdari as a “true force of nature, and one of the ICCA Consortium’s most cherished flowers.”
Zahra Naghibi was a PhD student at the University of Windsor’s Turbulence and Energy Lab. She was also chair of the IEEE Young Professionals group. Naghibi’s husband, Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi, also died in the crash. 
And Pedram Jadidi was a PhD student in civil engineering. He was described by Javad Sadeghi, another University of Windsor PhD student and friend, as “very lovely and very ambitious.”
An international student from Vancouver was also among the dead. Delaram Dadashnejad was flying home to Vancouver after a visit with family in Tehran. Her sister and a friend confirmed her death to CBC News on Wednesday morning.
She had been studying nutrition at Langara College. Her friend, Sia Ahmadi, said she had originally planned to fly home on Dec. 17 but missed that flight after her student visa did not arrive on time and booked Wednesday’s instead.
Four University of Toronto students have been identified as victims of the crash, as well. Mojtaba Abbasnezhad, a first-year international PhD student, was an Iranian citizen who lived in Toronto while studying electrical engineering, his close friend and classmate Pooya Poolad told CBC News. 
Poolad was supposed to be on the trip with Abbasnezhad, but had to cancel before they left.
Fellow U of T students Mohammad Salehe, Zeynab Asadi-Lari and Mohammad Hossein Asadi-Lari have also been confirmed as passengers on the plane, while Northern Secondary School in Toronto confirmed that grade 10 student Maya Zibaie died in the Wednesday morning crash.
Alina Tarbhai, an administrative clerk at the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Parisa Eghbalian, an Aurora, Ont.-based dentist, and Mississauga, Ont., sales consultant Shadi Jamshidi were also identified by colleagues as among the dead. 
Samira Bashiri and her husband Hamid Setarah Kokab are two more victims connected to universities in Canada.
Bashiri worked as a researcher at the University of Windsor, while Kokab was a PhD student studying mechanical engineering there.
Lisa Porter, a fellow researcher who supervised Bashiri, said she was a veterinarian in Iran who planned to begin graduate school in Windsor in September. 
“This is a tragic loss for all of us, and we are so devastated for her family and friends back home,” said Porter.
Siavash Ghafouri-Azar of Montreal, another victim of the crash, studied engineering and completed his master’s at Concordia University, and had recently returned to Iran to get married. Ali Dolatabadi, one of Ghafouri-Azar’s thesis supervisors, described him as a kind, diligent and talented student.
“When he started with us, he was working hard … he really established a new methodology that we will use and are using [in our work],” he said.
Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, both in their mid-20s, were graduate students in the U of A’s computer science program. They had travelled to Iran for their wedding, said Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.
He said he heard the couple was accompanied by four friends who travelled with them to celebrate the wedding.
“It’s devastating and shocking,” Akbari said. “It’s a tragic moment.”
Faraz Falsafi, who lived in Toronto but studied at McGill, was also killed in the crash. 
Montrealer Shahab Raana, who was in his 30s, was also on the flight, according to his longtime friend Hamïdreza Zahèdi.
He had come to Canada “for a better future” and was studying welding. 
Raana had told Zahèdi he was going back to visit family in Iran, but that he wanted to be back by Jan. 8.
Zahèdi said Raana posted a message to an Iranian group on the Telegram app yesterday, saying he managed to get on a Ukrainian flight out of Tehran.
“I am inside the Ukrainian plane right now, on my way to Montreal. Awaiting takeoff. For the time being, all a go for the flight,” Raana wrote.
Full local coverage can be found in the following stories: