An Ajax family of three are among several GTA residents killed in a plane crash in Iran that claimed the lives of at least 63 Canadians on Wednesday.
Evin Arsalani, who worked as a business analyst at CIBC, along with her husband, Hiva Molani, and their one-year-old daughter, Kurdia Molani, had travelled to Iran for a wedding back on December 8th.
The family was scheduled to return home Wednesday after celebrating Arsalani’s birthday on January 2nd.
Parisa Eghbalian, who worked as a dentist at Aurora E&E Dentistry, was also killed in the crash along with her nine-year-old daughter, Reera Esmaeilion.
“I’m never going to forget her laugh, her smile, and the little girl — she was so adorable,” Manijeh Ghotbi, who worked with Eghbalian, said through tears.
“Everybody is devastated.”
The Toronto-based Tirgan Festival, which celebrates Iranian art and culture, posted condolences for Eghbalian and her daughter, as well as for Toronto couple Parinaz and Iman Ghaderpanah, who also lost their lives in the tragedy.
CityNews has learned that Toronto residents, Afifa Tarbhai, Alina Tarbhai, and Asghar Dhirani were on the flight.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says Alina Tarbhai worked at the OSSTF/FEESO provincial office.
“Alina was a valued employee, and part of a tightly-knit team at Provincial Office,” OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said in a statement. “She was respected and well-liked by all. Her passing represents a profound loss for all of us who worked with her.”
Also from Toronto, Saharnaz Haghjoo and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, are confirmed victims. Jadidi was a student at Al Haadi Islamic school in Scarborough.
In a release, York Region said staff member Bahareh Karami (pictured below) was among the deceased. “It is with great sadness we announce the heart-breaking passing of one of our York Region staff, Ms. Bahareh Karami.
“Bahareh was a passenger on Ukraine International Flight 752 from Tehran to Kiev earlier this morning …”
Karami worked in the Capital Planning and Delivery branch within Environmental Services for the region.
“She is being remembered for her love of family, a dedicated and strong work ethic, and great sense of enthusiasm,” York Region Chief Administrator Officer Bruce Macgregor said.
The Toronto District School Board confirmed that a grade 10 student at Northern Secondary School lost her life in the crash. In a letter to parents, Maya Zibaie was described as “kind, happy and well-liked by her peers.”
York Region District School Board (YRDSB) tells CityNews there are multiple victims belonging to schools across the region, but didn’t provide specifics, saying an update is forthcoming.
Amir Ovaysi, 42, is remembered as a proud family man who would often show his colleagues videos and photos of his six-year-old daughter, Asal, and his wife, Sara Hamzeei, 34.
Ovaysi’s manager, Troy Futher, said the three were in Iran to visit Ovaysi’s aging parents. Ovaysi left in mid-December, joining his wife and daughter, who had arrived in November. It was their first visit home since they came to Canada about two years ago.
Futher said he hired Ovaysi at his heating, ventilation and air-conditioning company, Smith Energy Inc., in June. Ovaysi had a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He worked out of the company’s Mississauga office, but had a house in Newmarket.
Universities confirm student deaths
The University of Toronto confirms that several of its students were killed, but hasn’t released any names.
“We have learned, with profound sorrow, that several U of T students were among the 176 people killed in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 in Tehran, Iran,” U of T President Meric Gertler said in a statement.
A vigil was held on Wednesday night for six University of Toronto students who were killed in the Ukrainian Airlines crash in Tehran.
York University also confirmed the death of an unnamed student.
“Today, York University mourns the loss of one of our students aboard the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed this morning near Tehran,” the school said in a statement. “We are reaching out to the individual’s family and to campus groups to offer our support during this time of sorrow. Out of respect to those affected, we will not be publicly identifying this individual until we confirm more details.”
#UofT is deeply saddened by the tragic crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 near Tehran & all three campuses are united in mourning the loss of the victims and offering sympathy and condolences to their families and friends. (1/4) https://t.co/PBd0lTklA8
— University of Toronto (@UofT) January 8, 2020
The University of Guelph identified two victims as Ghanimat Azdahri, a PhD student in the department of geography, environment and geomatics, and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, a PhD student in marketing and consumer studies.
The school said they were on the way back to Canada from visiting Iran.
McMaster University released a statement that said it believed two of its students, Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian, were among the victims.
The school said Aghabali and Eshaghian were both PhD students in the faculty of engineering.
“McMaster is a tightly knit community and there will be many faculty, staff, colleagues, friends and fellow students who need our support and caring at this tragic time,” said president David Farrar.
Two students enrolled at the University of Waterloo have been confirmed as victims as well.
Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan and Mansour Esfahani were both PhD students, according to university officials.
Hadis Hayatdavoudi was a PhD student at Western University in London, who studied the effects of hydrogen on copper at the Electrochemistry and Corrosion Science Centre.
As a byproduct of Hayatdavoudi’s research, the copper she pumped with hydrogen was melted down into tiny balls, which would normally be thrown away, her supervisor said.
“She saw beauty in these little tiny beads of copper, and she was saving them because she thought that she could maybe employ them in making jewelry or something like that. I have a little box of these things that were saved from her work,” Jamie Noel said, shaking the box so the beads clattered together.
Noel said Hayatdavoudi had spent a month in Iran with her family — her first time back home since she moved to Canada on her own in September 2018. He said she was on the flight so she could be back in Canada in time to act as a teaching assistant for one of his courses.
The University of Ottawa confirmed that three of its students were also among the victims. Their names were not immediately released.
“We are still trying to assess if any other students, faculty or staff members were also on the plane,” the school said in a statement.
Western University says four of its students died in the crash.
“It is with sadness I share that Western is aware of four students who have died in the crash of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 in Iran last night. Three were current graduate students and one was an incoming graduate student,” school President & Vice-Chancellor Alan Shepard said in a statement.
“Out of respect for their families, we are not naming the students at this early stage until more information is available.”
Langara College in Vancouver said it was mourning the loss of student Delaram Dadashnejad.
“Delaram was an international student taking university transfer classes, and was flying home to Vancouver after a visit with family in Tehran,” the school said in a statement.
The University of British Columbia said the names of two former students, Zeynab Asadi Lari and Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari, appeared on the flight manifest.
The school’s president, Santa Ono, said in a statement that he was “profoundly saddened.”
Zeynab Asadi Lari enrolled in 2016 in the bachelor of science program as a biology major, while Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari graduated in 2018 with a bachelor of science degree in cellular, anatomical and physiological sciences with honours standing, the statement said.
“On behalf of the UBC community, I wish to express my deepest condolences to their family, friends and loved ones,” Ono said.
He said the university will continue to ensure its Iranian students, faculty and staff have the support they need.
Shayesteh Majdnia, a past president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said she was close friends with Shekoufeh Choupannejad, a gynecologist who died along with her two daughters Saba Saadat and Sara Saadat.
Majdnia said she had spoken to Choupannejad’s husband, who is still in Iran, for confirmation. She said Choupannejad also leaves behind a son who was not on the trip with the family.
“She was the kindest person I had ever met,” Majdnia said of Choupannejad.
She said Choupannejad was always there for community fundraisers, and often did her best to help take appointments with new immigrants who were overwhelmed and unable to find immediate medical help.
Payman Paseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in Edmonton, said his friend Pedram Mousavi, an engineering professor at the University of Alberta, died along with his wife Mojgan Daneshmand and their daughters Daria Mousavi and Dorina Mousavi.
“They had two young girls with them. I can’t imagine what was going through their mind,” Paseyan told The Canadian Press.
Students from the University of Alberta said their friends, Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, were returning to Edmonton after getting married in Iran a week earlier.
Amir Forouzandeh and Amir Samani, who are both doing their master’s in computer science, said they were in the same program with the couple.
“I wasn’t able to go back, but they had their wedding on Jan. 1 and they were planning to come back on the 8th, and, of course, we all know what happened,” said Forouzandeh.
He said they were the kindest people he knew.
“Since Day 1 that I got to know them and hang out with them, it was a blast,” he said. “We got along so easily and pretty much within a week or two we just were hanging out every other day.”
Both Samani and Forouzandeh said the two were looking forward to the wedding when they left.
“They were super excited,” said Forouzandeh. “A lot of people came from all over the world to be at their wedding.”
Samani added that he can’t believe what happened.
“I’m a big denier right now,” he said, noting he kept checking his phone to see if Arash was online.
Nasim Rahmanifar, a master’s student in the University of Alberta’s mechanical engineering department, was nervous about her first winter in Edmonton.
“She was so excited to go back … she planned to surprise her mom,” her friend Sina Esfandiarpour told Edmonton media at a news conference.
He said he received a text from Rahmanifar from the airport that she was on her way back and she wasn’t looking forward to the cold weather.
“She was afraid,” said Esfandiarpour. “She just came in May and she said, ‘They told me it was just freezing cold.’
“She is never going to see that.”
Ramin Fathian, Rahmanifar’s officemate, said she was really worried about the weather in Edmonton.
“She was asking me all the time, ‘What is the best jacket?”’ he recalled. “We were saying it’s not that bad. You will get used to it.”
One of her supervisors, Prof. Hossein Rouhani, said Rahmanifar was a highly motivated, hard-working student who had recently earned a scholarship.
“She was an outstanding student,” said Rouhani, who added Rahmanifar planned to complete a PhD when she returned to Canada.
A North Vancouver couple in their mid-50s, Firouzeh Madani and Naser Pourshaban were both award-winning physicians in Iran, said their niece Sara Hezarkhani. They were working towards getting their licences to practice in Canada.
“No words can describe their personalities, their true spirit, the passion that they had for the work,” said Hezarkhani.
The couple was in Iran for about two weeks over the holidays to visit family, she said.
Pourshaban and Madani had been living in Canada for about seven years, said Hezarkhani. Their daughter is a university student in the Lower Mainland. She was not on board the flight.
“This is a big loss for our family and it will be very hard to (get) over,” said Hezarkhani.
The president of the Vancouver-based Civic Association of Iranian-Canadians, Kei Esmaeilpour, said a Vancouver family of three was killed in the crash.
Esmaeilpour said Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, an engineer, and Niloofar Razzaghi, who had just completed university training to become a teacher, lived in Vancouver with their 15-year-old son Hamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi.
Esmaeilpour said the family was vacationing in Iran.
He said he worked with Ebnoddin Hamidi and the two had served on the civic association together for at least a decade.
Friends of a family who run a bakery in North Vancouver say the crash left a tiny family shattered.
Amir Pasavand who owns Amir Bakery in North Vancouver lost his daughter, 17-year-old Fatemah Pasavand, and his 36-year-old wife, Ayeshe Pourghadheri, a family friend confirmed.
“The family supplied bread to my store,” said Reza Varasteh, owner of Vanak Market and Deli, which is across the street from Amir Bakery.
The mother and daughter went to Iran about a month ago on vacation, he said adding that he has known the family for about five years.
He described the family as hardworking and Pourghadheri as pleasant.
“She was always laughing, really kind.”
Varasteh said Amir Pasavand left for Tehran Wednesday morning to be with his family.
Fatemah Pasavand is a student at Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver and was going to turn 18 this month, he said.
“The dad was wishing he was in the airplane instead of them,” he said. “He had a hard time realizing he lost his family … He had prepared a special meal that his daughter had asked for when she came back.”
Mohammad (Daniel) Saket, an engineer at North Vancouver-based real estate developer Denna Homes and his wife Fatemah (Faye) Kazerani died in the crash, the company confirmed.
“This has been a very trying day for the Denna Homes family. As a small office of 10 people Daniel’s passing is a significant loss to all of us. Daniel was a colleague, a friend and family. Both he and Faye will be sadly missed,” said Dan Thomson, vice-president of marketing, in a statement.
“Daniel and Faye both had a zest for life that lit up every room they entered.”
A celebration of life will be held for the couple on Saturday, the statement said.
Farzad Taheri said he saw his cousins, who go by the English names Daniel and Faye, just before Christmas.
“We were the only family they had in Canada,” Taheri said.
Taheri described Saket as “extremely kind, generous, humble genius.”
His death is a “big loss to humanity,” he said.
“Faye was the most positive, also extremely kind and generous woman.”
A Dalhousie student and a Halifax dentist were among the Canadians killed.
Halifax dentist Dr. Sharieh Faghihi is among the passengers listed onboard Flight PS752.
Masters student Masoumeh Ghavi and her sister Mahdieh Ghavi were also among the victims.
According to Sadra Kord-Jamshidi, president of the Dalhousie Iranian Student Society, Masoumeh had been studying IT/communications at Dalhousie.
In an emailed statement to NEWS 95.7, he said Masoumeh’s sister, Mahdieh, had recently been accepted to study at Dalhousie and Masoumeh went to Iran to bring her back with her for the new semester.
Kord-Jamshidi described Masoumeh as extremely nice and a hard worker.
Several victims from the province of Manitoba have been identified.
Forough Khadem was an immunologist who worked for the non-profit company Mitacs, Inc.
Three members of the same Manitoba family were also on the doomed flight. Friends tell CityNews Mehdi Sadeghi (father), Bahareh Hajesfandiari (mother) and Anisa Sadeghi (daughter) are all among the dead.
Amir Shirzadi, a board member with the Manitoba Iranian Student Association, said his good friend Amirhossien Ghasemi was on the plane.
Shirzadi said his friend was visiting family in Iran and was on his way back to Winnipeg. Ghasemi was a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Manitoba.
“I saw him before he left the country,” said Shirzadi, who added that the two played games together.
“I can’t use past tense. I think he’s coming back. We play again. We talk again. It’s too difficult to use past tense, too difficult. No one can believe it.”
A Winnipeg family of three will be dearly missed, said their neighbour Behnam Soltani.
Mohammad Sadeghi, who went by Mahdi; his wife Bahareh Hajesfandiari and their daughter Anisa Sadeghi were a kind family, Soltani said.
“They were some of the nicest people I’ve met.”
Soltani said the family was in Iran to visit relatives over the holidays and he knew they were coming back on the flight that crashed.
Zahra Naghibi was a colleague of Jacqueline Stagner at the University of Windsor. Stagner said she was informed by the head of the lab where Naghibi worked that she was on the plane.
“She was very helpful and warm,” Stagner said.
Naghibi was a part of Windsor’s Turbulence and Energy Lab, where she worked on issues related to solar energy.
Stagner said when one of her students — just starting graduate work and new to Canada — needed help, Naghibi stepped in.
“Zahra was giving her advice, helping her out, letting her learn from her own work and what she’d discovered — helping her along, the next generation of researchers. She was very welcoming.”
Relatives said Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student in biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, was in Iran to marry his fiancee over the school holiday. Their wedding was just three days ago.
Golnaz Shaverdi, cousin of Arasteh’s wife, said the family is devastated by news of his death, especially his new bride, Maral, who remains in Iran.
“She’s devastated,” Shaverdi said. “He was such a nice guy. Everyone in the family really loved him. He was young and very kind. Everyone is, of course, devastated and they are also very worried for his wife, because she’s going through a very hard time now.”
Hamidreza Setareh, 31, and Samira Bashiri, 29, fell in love as teenagers in Iran and had built a successful life together in Windsor, Ont., said friend Rachel Smith.
The husband and wife had been in Canada for about a year and Bashiri had just recently completed her citizenship exam. The couple — who some friends nicknamed “Sami and Hami” — were in Iran for a month-long visit with their families, Smith said.
She said Setareh was working on his PhD in engineering, taught at the University of Windsor part time and had a dog-grooming business on the side. Bashiri worked in a lab trying to find cures for diseases.
Smith remembers them as generous and said they worked hard to raise funds for a church mission to help orphans in Kenya.
They would give without ever expecting anything in return, she said.
“They just want friendship and they just want to show their love to people,” she said. “They were blessed and they were blessings. It was really an honour knowing them.”
Alma Oladi was a PhD student studying mathematics at the University of Ottawa. Students and staff who knew her turned her desk into a makeshift memorial on Wednesday, with white flowers and cards placed next to a picture of her signature smile.
“She always had this smile on her face,” said Mohsen Zandimoghadam, who was a friend of Oladi.
“She was a nice and kind girl, she always wanted to explore places and discover new things in life and new places? she had so many plans for her life in Canada.”
Roja Azadian was supposed to travel to Canada for the first time with her husband, who has been studying at Algonquin College in Ottawa, but a mix-up over his ticket meant he could not get on the plane with her.
“He was thinking, I’m going to send her and then I’m going to be back on the next flight,” said Leila Hojabri, a friend of Azadian’s husband.
He called a friend in Ottawa, asking if he could pick Azadian up at the airport and ensure she was safe. Instead, her husband remains safe in Iran and she died aboard Ukraine International Airlines flight PS 752.
“She wasn’t sure if she should come to Canada and he was just building here and getting ready for her to join him and it’s just a really, really tragic story,” Hojabri said.
Four residents of Montreal have been identified so far.
They are Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, a couple who had recently returned to Iran to get married, and Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh, a couple who were vacationing in Iran.
With files from News957.com and The Canadian Press