Watch extended video above: The sister of the Canadian man killed aboard MH17 speaks out
TORONTO – Andrei Anghel and his girlfriend Olga Ioppa embarked on their dream trip Thursday morning, bound for a tropical break from medical school in Romania.
He texted his sister as he boarded, promising to check in from Bali.
They never made it.
Hours later they were plunged to earth as their Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine.
Alexandra Anghel knew where her little brother was headed but it didn’t click when she read the news about the airline disaster Thursday.
It wasn’t until a friend called with questions that she got an uneasy feeling.
“Right away, I knew something was wrong,” Alexandra told Global News.
“I had seen the article show up on the Internet, just as a headline, and I never put two and two together.”
When the family confirmed with Malaysia Airlines her brother indeed boarded the flight, she said “everything just kinda went numb.”
Alexandra, who lives in Edmonton, flew home to Ajax to be with her devastated family.
“Hearing my dad cry on the phone after the cops came … my dad never cries,” she said, wiping away her own tears.
24-year-old Andrei and Olga, his German girlfriend, were on “their dream trip” after he finished his second year of medical school in Romania, his sister said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said the missile that shot down flight MH17 came from pro-Russian separatist territory in eastern Ukraine.
“It’s not fair,” Alexandra said. “He had nothing to do with whatever has been going on in that war zone. No one on that plane did.
“It makes me sick that there’s people out there that could ruin so many families with a push of a button.”
Andrei had so many plans for his career that wont’ ever be fulfilled, Alexandra said.
“He wanted to change the world. He wanted to cure stuff.”
Andrei’s immunology professor told Global News he was shocked and saddened at the news of his former student’s death, remembering Andrei as someone “fascinated with human disease” with an “abiding wish to be a doctor.”
University of Waterloo professor Brian Dixon wrote Andrei a recommendation letter for his application to Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania—his father Sorin’s hometown.
“I knew that he was Romanian, I knew that his mother and his grandmother had done medical degrees in Romania,” Dixon said. “I knew about his abilities and his drive and his curiosity from all the questions he asked after class and in office hours.”
Dixon remembers hearing from Andrei in an August 2012 email, when the young man said he didn’t think he was going to get into medical school and would take a year off to “think about things” instead.
Then in October of 2012, he wrote Dixon a second time with a very different outlook: He’d gotten in.
“He was so happy he was doing what he wanted,” Dixon recalled.
“And this morning when I found out it was him, I was really saddened that after all that desire, after all that hard work to get into medical school—it was taken away from him.”
President of the University of Waterloo Feridun Hamdullahpur said in a statement the entire university community is “shocked and saddened by the tragic passing of Andrei Anghel.”
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family members and friends at this extremely difficult time. This deplorable act has rocked the world¹s scientific and research community. Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of all of those who died in this tragic event,” said Hamdullahpur.
Andrei also volunteered at a seniors’ home in Waterloo, and worked as a camera operator and photo lab technician at university, according to a resume posted on his website.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, the member of Parliament for Ajax-Pickering, visited the Anghel family home Friday morning to express his sympathies.
“Andrei represented the best that Ajax and Canada have to offer,” Alexander said in a statement. “He had worked and studied hard to realize his dream of becoming a doctor, and was looking forward to a long-planned holiday in Bali. My wife and I are devastated by his family’s loss. Our hearts go out to Andrei’s parents, his sister, other family members and friends, as well as those of his girlfriend, a German citizen with whom he was travelling, whose grief we share.”
The Canadian government is ready to assist Ukrainian authorities with the investigation, Alexander said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted her condolences Friday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened” to learn the passenger jet was shot down and said Canada is willing to assist authorities in determining the cause of the crash.
The airline has said one Canadian was among the 298 people killed after what U.S. intelligence officials believe was a surface-to-air missile brought down the flight en route from Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur.
Meantime, Alexandra keeps waiting for her brother to walk in the door, remembering her last text to him.
“Please be safe, kiddo.”
*With files from Global News’s Jennifer Tryon, Cindy Pom and The Canadian Press