Editor’s note: Global News previously reported, based on information from government officials, that 63 Canadians were killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran. On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that the number of crash victims who are Canadian citizens is now believed to be 57 due to additional information received. This story has been revised to reflect the latest figure provided by the Canadian government.
At least 15 British Columbian residents are among the 57 Canadians killed in a devastating plane crash near Iran’s capital, Tehran, early Wednesday morning, including a family of three from Port Coquitlam and multiple residents of North Vancouver.
Friends tell Global News that Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, his wife Niloufar Khamsi Razzaghi and their 15-year-old son Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi were on the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed, killing all 176 people on board.
“Everybody is really shocked and sad that we lost him and his family,” said Kei Esmaeilpour, founder of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians, in a phone call from Powell River, B.C.
He said Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi was an “active member” of the local Iranian community along with his family, helping contribute to several community events.
“They were a really respected family, contributing to the society as much as they could.”
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said in an email that he knew Ebnoddin Hamidi, and extended condolences to his family on behalf of city council.
“A wonderful member of our community,” Stewart said. “Always smiling, always positive, a very likeable man who will be missed.”
Friends said Ebnoddin Hamidi was a building engineer, and that Razzaghi had just finished university to become a teacher.
An Iranian international student who was studying at Langara College, Delaram Dadashnejad, was also identified as a victim in the crash.
Her ID that stated she was from B.C. was found at the crash site, according to Iranian state media.
In a statement, the college’s president and CEO Dr. Lane Trotter said Dadashnejad was taking university transfer classes and was flying back to Vancouver after visiting family in Tehran.
“The loss of one of our students is one that impacts our entire community,” Trotter said. “We are heartbroken over the fatal tragedy that took place; our thoughts and prayers are with those in mourning from this incident.”
Meanwhile, friends have confirmed Mohammad Asadi Lari, 23, and his sister Zeynab Asadi Lari, 21, both from Vancouver, were also killed in the crash.
The pair had gone from the University of British Columbia to finish their educations in Toronto, friends said. While Mohammad had earned his medical degree, Zeynab was in the midst of finishing her bachelor of sciences at the University of Toronto.
“I’m lost for words,” friend Steven Lu said. “I don’t want to believe the news.”
Another friend, Saman Arfaie, wrote on Facebook that Mohammad was “one of my dearest and closest friends.”
“It has been a tragedy that words would not be able to describe, nor do justice, to the magnitude and scope of it,” Arfaie wrote. “We lost some remarkable people today. Their lives and hopes cut short too soon.”
University of British Columbia president Santa Ono also confirmed the siblings were former students, saying he was “profoundly saddened” to hear the news.
“This is a challenging time for UBC’s Iranian students, faculty and staff and we understand developments internationally and domestically in Iran are a cause of deep concern for them,” Ono said. ”
“We will continue to ensure our Iranian students have the supports they need.”
Also among those killed in the crash were Naser Pourshabanoshibi and Firouzeh Madani, according to family and friends who spoke to Global News. Both lived in North Vancouver and had worked as doctors.
The couple’s daughter Kimia Pourshabanoshibi fought back tears as she remembered her parents.
“I want people to know that they were strong, they were very strong-willed, and they were people who believed that with honest and with good virtue, you can get through anything,” she said.
“They made me see that my purpose in life was to be happy and make happy and live happy.”
Another North Vancouver couple, Mohammad Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani, were on board the flight as well and were confirmed dead by family and a local business owner.
Saket worked as an engineer while Kazerani was a hygienist, a cousin told Global News.
That same business owner, Rosewood Photography owner Arash Azrahimi, also confirmed another pair of North Vancouver residents were on plane: Ayeshe Pourghaderi and her 17-year-old daughter Fatemah Pasavand.
“When I woke up today and I saw the names, I was shocked,” Azrahimi said, adding the four people he helped identify had been clients of his. “I’m still in shock … it’s unbelievable they’re not here anymore.”
Azrahimi, who often takes official photos for citizenship and passports, said he saw Pourghaderi “every 10, 15 days” while he only met Pasavand “two or three times.”
Ayeshe Pourghaderi and her 17-year-old daughter Fatemah Pasavand.
Soheila Massoumeh Moshref Razavi Moghaddam has been confirmed as the 13th B.C. victim in the crash.
Her daughter Kimia confirmed to Global News that her mother was on the flight, and said her sister was already in Tehran.
Friends have also confirmed to Global News that Roja Omidbakhsh was on board the flight.
The University of Victoria confirmed Omidbakhsh was a first-year student in the Gustavson School of Business. Commerce professor Mark Colgate called her a “positive, mature student” in a statement.
“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” Colgate said.
“We’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.
A 15th victim, Dr. Mehran Abtahi, was confirmed Thursday by the University of British Columbia, where he worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of civil engineering.
Chris Gorczynski, student services manager in the faculty of applied science, said Abtahi joined the department in October 2019 and was working in the environmental engineering group.
“Dr. Abtahi made a strong impression in the short time he worked at Civil Engineering,” Gorczynski wrote in an email. “He was diligent, selfless, and always willing to support others.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan shared his condolences to the families and friends of the victims on Twitter.
“As we wait for answers about what happened, we join with nations around the world who are mourning this tragic loss of life,” the premier wrote. “We share in their grief.”
The Canadian flag at the B.C. legislature in Victoria was lowered to half-mast to honour the victims.
RCMP in North Vancouver, which is home to a large Iranian Canadian population, also expressed sympathies in a statement.
“This is very sad and upsetting news for many of our residents,” the police force said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart shared a statement on Twitter as well on behalf of city council.
“As Mayor, I want to let the local Iranian community know that Vancouverites are behind them and will support them during this difficult time,” he said.
The crash happened early Wednesday morning, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers.
However, Ukrainian and Iranian officials have both said a mechanical issue likely caused the Boeing 737-800 aircraft to crash.
Airline officials said most of the passengers aboard the aircraft were en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of those on board were connecting to Canada.
Several other Canadians are confirmed to have come from Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
It remains unclear what happened. Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire struck one of its engines. The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Hassan Razaeifar, head of the air crash investigation committee, said it appeared the pilot couldn’t communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight. He did not elaborate.
—With files from Hannah Jackson, the Canadian Press and the Associated Press