Alberta newlyweds married for just a week died in Iran plane crash

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WATCH: More details on Edmonton victims of Tehran plane crash – Jan 8, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Community leaders initially believed that 27 people with Edmonton connections died in the plane crash. However, they and Global News have confirmed 13. We have updated this story to reflect the new information.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Jan. 10, the Canadian government updated the number of Canadians killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran from 63 to 57.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji were married on New Year’s Day. Just a week later, the newlyweds died while aboard a Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed just outside of Tehran.

Pourzarabi and Gorji were on their way home to Edmonton, where they were both completing their master’s degrees in computer science, friends of the couple said.

READ MORE: Here's what we know about the victims of the Iran plane crash who lived in Canada

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Amir Forouzandeh and Amir Samani studied with the couple. Both were invited to the wedding but were unable to attend.

Forouzandeh described the duo as the “kindest souls I knew.”

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gourji, seen here in their wedding photo. Credit: Akhavan Studio

“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,” Forouzandeh said.

Samani and Forouzandeh said the couple was really excited to be married and that loved ones from around the globe attended their wedding in Iran.

Samani added that he can’t believe what happened.

“I’m a big denier right now,” he said.

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Samani said the newlyweds had planned to have a “small ceremony” in Edmonton with their friends.

“I’m still looking forward to that,” Samani said.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji with friends in a supplied photo. Handout

He said the group of friends, all far from home in Iran, found comfort together.

“Research meetings together, talking about our research, talking about the plans, the things that we wanted to do…,” he said, succumbing to tears.

READ MORE: Iran plane crash — 138 passengers were connecting to Canada, Trudeau says

The University of Alberta paid tribute to “several members” of its community who died in the crash in a statement on Wednesday. Some of the other victims were reported to have travelled to Iran for the wedding.

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“I want to express my heartfelt grief. Words simply cannot express the loss I know we all are feeling,” the university’s president, David Turpin, said in a press release.

“On behalf of the University of Alberta, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, colleagues and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy. You have the sincerest sympathy and support of all those on campus.”

LISTEN: U of A president David Turpin joins Ryan Jespersen Show guest host Danielle Smith to talk about those the university lost

Many of the Canadian residents aboard the downed flight were from Alberta. The flight claimed the lives of 63 Canadians, and at least 13 are reported to have connections to Edmonton, according to both the current and former presidents of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.

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The province’s premier, Jason Kenney, said at least 30 Albertans were killed. He described it as “one of the largest single disasters for Albertans in our history.”

READ MORE: 8 people from Winnipeg dead in Tehran plane crash

“We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that a number of distinguished Albertans were aboard that flight.”

— With files from Global News reporters Karen Bartko and Emily Mertz

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