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Candlelight vigil held for Montrealers killed in Iran plane crash

Click to play video: 'Vigil held in Montreal for Iran plane crash victims' Vigil held in Montreal for Iran plane crash victims
People gathered in Montreal on Thursday to hold a vigil for victims of a plane that crashed in Iran on Wednesday, killing 176 people including at least 63 Canadians – Jan 9, 2020

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.

A candlelight vigil was held in downtown Montreal on Thursday evening to commemorate the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which crashed Wednesday near Iran’s capital of Tehran, killing everyone on board.

At least six Quebecers have been identified as victims of the fatal crash that killed 176 passengers and crew members, including 63 Canadians and others who may have lived in Canada, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Saman Abolfathi, a student at Concordia University and vice-president external of the Iranian student’s association, told Global News that it was important to come together.

“When these things happen, we usually try and share love with the families and friends of the lost ones and show some support to them,” he said.

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The memorial, which began at 5:30 p.m., was held outside Concordia University in the city’s core. Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, a couple who were Iran for their wedding and died in the crash, were former students at the university.

Abolfathi said the loss was all the more tragic, considering the lost potential and dreams cut short.

“We’ve lost a lot of good people because all of them were the brightest students,” he said, adding there are many hurdles for students hoping to make a new life in Canada.

“We’ve been through a lot to come here, every student here needs to have a high GPA, learn English and learn French,” he said, not to mention the struggles to pay rent and university fees.

Azadeh Javaherpour, a lecturer at McGill University, became friends with Mamani back in Iran, some 10 years ago.

Click to play video: 'Friend of Iran plane crash victim says they were ‘full of life,’ calls incident ‘shocking’' Friend of Iran plane crash victim says they were ‘full of life,’ calls incident ‘shocking’
Friend of Iran plane crash victim says they were ‘full of life,’ calls incident ‘shocking’ – Jan 9, 2020

She delivered a touching speech about Mamani, describing her as “bold, happy and cheerful.”

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Javaherpour said she’s had trouble coming to terms with what has happened, admitting that at first she didn’t want to attend the vigil at all.

“In the morning I had a panic attack,” she said. It was by speaking with friends, she said, that she realized she had to come.

“I really thought I should talk about her and how she was responsible for her family and everyone,” Javaherpour said, explaining that Mamani’s mother in Iran was in the advanced stages of cancer.

Reza Ghafouri, for his part, described his nephew Siavash Ghafouri as kind and dedicated. His death has been hard on Ghafouri, who said he was very close with Ghafouri-Azar.

“It is devastating and so unfortunate for me and my family,” he said.

All those gathered at the vigil, whether they were friends with the victims or not, came to share their grief.

“We wanted to share and show our feelings, all of us we are very sad,” said Mahdad Yami. “Our eyes are tearful and we don’t know what we should do.”

Reza Ghafouri described his nephew as kind and dedicated. His death has been hard on Ghafouri, who said he was very close with Ghafouri-Azar.

“It is devastating and so unfortunate for me and my family,” he said.

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READ MORE: Trudeau says Iranian missile likely brought down plane, killing dozens of Canadians

The disaster has also claimed the lives of at least three other Quebecers, including Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh from Montreal. The couple had studied at École de technologie supérieure.

Mohammed Moeini, a mechanical designer at Bombardier Recreational Products who lived in Sherbrooke, was also killed. His relative was supposed to pick him up from the airport when he learned about the crash.

The Boeing 737-800 went down in a field just minutes after taking off from the airport in Tehran early Wednesday.

The crash occurred just hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. The attack followed the targeted killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday afternoon that the crash is believed to have been caused by a missile. He cited intelligence from multiple sources that suggests that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

READ MORE: McGill University student among victims of Iran plane crash

In light of new information from the federal government, Quebec Premier François Legault said it’s important for the investigation to continue. He also extended his condolences to those who lost their loved ones and that the province wholeheartedly supports them.

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“It is essential and necessary that all the light be shed on this terrible tragedy as quickly as possible,” Legault said in a statement on Twitter.

While an investigation into the disaster is ongoing, a report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization suggests there is no immediate explanation for the cause of the crash but said a sudden emergency struck the aircraft.

While the cause of the crash remains unconfirmed, authorities in Ukraine and Iran initially both said a mechanical issue likely brought down the plane. However, Ukrainian officials later walked back their comments, citing the ongoing investigation.

The vigil in Montreal featured songs, speeches and a moment of silence as mourners gathered to pay tribute to those who died.

Click to play video: '63 Canadians among 176 killed in plane crash in Iran' 63 Canadians among 176 killed in plane crash in Iran
63 Canadians among 176 killed in plane crash in Iran – Jan 8, 2020

— With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore, Gloria Henriquez, The Canadian Press and Associated Press

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