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 Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan and Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani
A spokesperson with the University of Waterloo said they are aware the names of two phD students, Marzieh (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 Azdahri, 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. Alibeiki’s name does not appear on the flight manifest.
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.”
Nima Ahmadi, the vice-president of the Tirgan Festival, said Parinaz was a member of the non-profit’s funding committee and was a “brilliant lady,” who used her background in banking to help the organization. She worked at RBC, he said.
“She was a very, very beautiful person inside and out,” he said. “I’m going to miss her.’”
Her husband was also a sponsor of the festival. He said they were both in their early to mid-30s and coming back from visiting their parents in Iran.
Parisa Eghbalian and her daughter Reera Esmaeilion, GTA
Dr. Hamed Esmaeilion of Log Home Dental in Caledon East gave permission to confirm he is mourning the loss of his wife, Dr. Parisa Eghbalian, and daughter Reera Esmaeilion, said office manager Leanne Robertson.
Robertson said Eghbalian and the couple’s daughter were on the trip to attend his wife’s sister’s engagement party.
Esmaeilion and Eghbalian also ran Aurora E&E Dentistry in Aurora together. According to that clinic’s webpage, Eghbalian was born and raised in Iran, and graduated from Tabriz University of Medical Science in 2001. Prior to immigrating to Canada in 2010, she worked as an associate for nine years. In her spare time, she enjoyed reading and watching movies with her husband and young daughter.
At the Aurora office, assistant Manija Ghotbi told the Star that owner Eghbalian had left for vacation last month with her daughter.
We’re all devastated,” Ghotbi said.
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 Niloofar Razzaghi, their son Kamyar Ebnoddin-Hamidi, Metro Vancouver
Ardalan Ebnoddin-Hamidi, his wife Niloofar Razzaghi, and their teenage son Kamyar Ebnoddin-Hamidi are confirmed to have been on the flight. Razzaghi’s name does not appear on the official flight manifest, but multiple sources have confirmed to the Star she was on board.
The family was from Metro Vancouver, according to the chair of the Tricity Iranian Cultural Society. Behzad Abdi 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
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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.”
McMaster University students Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian
McMaster University confirmed that two PhD students in the Faculty of Engineering were believed to be on board, Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian.
“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 in a statement.
According to McMaster’s website, Aghabali received his bachelors in electrical engineering, and joined McMaster as a PhD student to pursue his research interests under supervision of professor Ali Emadi in McMaster automotive resource centre, in 2017. His research focused on design and control of power electronics converters in hybrid electric vehicles applications.
The website says Eshaghian joined MARC in 2018 to pursue his master’s degree, and then PhD in mechanical engineering. He had previously graduated from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.
Alireza Pey, Ottawa
Alireza Pey, known to his friends as Ali, was a loving father who cared deeply for the Iranian community in Ottawa. He leaves behind his two daughters, aged 8 and 10.
“It’s devastating and I’m in disbelief,” said Maryam Kamkar, a friend of Pey’s and Iranian Canadian family community member.
Pey organized a Facebook group to bring Iranian Canadian families together in Ottawa, “to meet and provide an opportunity for kids to play and keep the language and culture going,” Kamkar added.
Pey is also the founder and CEO of MessageHopper, a tech company in Ottawa. Back in 2017, he also published a book called “Discrimination in the Canadian Courts: The True Story of a Muslim Father Fighting for His Children” based on his experience moving to Canada from Iran as an experienced engineer in 2000 and fighting discrimination against immigrant fathers in family court.
“He was a great man who tried to bring the community together,” Kamkar says. “He provided his personal residence as a meeting place for Iranian families to come together, celebrated both Iranian and Canadian holidays with a large group of friends.”
Delaram Dadashnejad, Vancouver
A student from Tehran studying at Langara College in Vancouver was also killed, Delaram Dadashnejad, 27, was taking university transfer courses at the college.
In a statement Langara College said Dadashnejad was visiting family in Iran and on her way back to Vancouver to continue her studies.
University of Windsor research assistant Hamid Setarah Kokab and wife Samira Bashiri
Assistant professor at the University of Windsor Afshin Rahimi confirmed to the Star that his research assistant Hamid Setarah Kokab and his wife Samira Bashiri were on the plane.
University of Toronto students and siblings Zeynab Asadi Lari and Mohammed Asadi Lari
University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) student Zeynab Asadi Lari was pursuing a science degree at UTM and was the UTM branch president of the STEM Fellowship, a Canadian non-profit that mentors young scholars in data science and scholarly writing.
STEM Fellowship co-founder Dr. Sacha Noukhovitch confirmed that Asadi Lari, and her brother, Mohammed Asadi Lari, were on the plane that crashed.
Mohammed Asadi Lari, who attends the downtown campus of University of Toronto, co-founded the STEM Fellowship.
University of Toronto student Mohammad Amin Jebelli
Mohammad Amin Jebelli, a medical student at University of Toronto, had travelled to Tehran to be with his family over the holidays, said Kevin Vuong, who taught him in a Leadership and Project Management class.
Vuong described Jebelli as “a phenomenal scientist” with an interest in cardiovascular diseases, and who had a passion for photography.
“We lost 176 people yesterday, one of them was Amin, and the world is worst for it. May you rest in peace, my friend,” wrote Vuong, who also serves in the Royal Canadian Navy, in a tribute tweet.
Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, Montreal
Two graduates from Concordia University in Montreal were also among the dead. Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani both graduated from the school of engineering at the university, the school confirmed on Twitter.
Shadi Jamshidi, Toronto
Shadi Jamshidi lived in Toronto and worked at the Mississauga office of Brenntag Canada as a technical sales representative.
The entire community at Brenntag Canada is “devastated” for the loss of Jamshidi, who was the company’s technical sales representative, said HR and communications director Stefania Badea.
Jamshidi, 31, had been working with the company for over a year, and had travelled to Iran to be with her family over the holidays.
“She totally was an amazing person,” said Badea, noting Jamshidi had just been selected to participate in the company’s upcoming global program on leadership in March. “She was a great employee, outstanding, always fun to be around. She had a very positive attitude, highly intelligent. We looked at her as one of our future talents.”
Carleton University student Fareed Arasteh and alumnus Mansour Pourjam
Carleton University confirmed two of members of its community were on board the flight, Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student in biology, and biology alumnus Mansour Pourjam.
“Our thoughts are with Fareed’s and Mansour’s families, friends and colleagues at this difficult time, and with everyone who has suffered loss in this terrible tragedy,” the school said in a statement on their website.
Bahareh Karami, York Region
York Region confirmed the death of a member of its staff, Bahareh Karami, who joined the municipality in 2018 working as a technologist in the capital planning and delivery branch within Environmental Services.
“We are so shocked and extremely saddened by this tragedy,” said York Region chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson in a release. “Our prayers are with Bahareh’s family, friends and colleagues, and for everyone that may be impacted in any way by this horrific event.”
The release said the municipality is in the process of reaching out directly to Bahareh’s immediate family, who live in Tehran. It said she was a graduate of University of Tehran with a bachelor of science in chemical engineering, before receiving a master’s degree in science from North Carolina State University.
“Bahareh’s colleagues speak very highly of her,” said York Region chief administrator officer Bruce Macgregor. “She is being remembered for her love of family, a dedicated and strong work ethic, and great sense of enthusiasm.”
Mahsa Amirliravi and husband Moh Salahi, Toronto
Mazyar Amirliravi, the brother of Mahsa Amirliravi, 29, confirmed that his sister was on the flight with her husband Moh Salahi, 30.
“I’m so sad,” a sobbing Mazyar Amirliravi told the Star. Amirliravi said he found out about his sister’s death via news reports. He has since spoken to relatives in Tehran who confirmed she was killed in the crash.
Overwhelmed by grief, Mazyar Amirliravi was unable to speak, so his wife, Nafise Ghadimi did so on his behalf. She said the couple were both engineers, who met at Ryerson University and later married in 2014. The couple were Canadian citizens, who lived in Richmond Hill and both taught engineering-related courses at Lambton College in Toronto.
“We were suppose to go pick them up today,” she said. “They were very young and successful.”
Arad Zarei, GTA
Arad Zarei, 18, was in Iran visiting his mother over the holidays in the city of Shiraz, according to a statement from his father Mehrzad Zarei, which he released through the office of Willowdale MP Ali Ehsassi.
“He was the apple of my eye and his energetic demeanour and caring personality left a lasting impression on his classmates and many friends,” the father wrote. “His life will undoubtedly leave a gaping hole in the lives of the many he touched.”
Mehrzad Zarei said his son was supposed to come back in Canada to resume his last semester at Richmond Green Secondary School.