Vigil for McMaster University students killed in Iran plane crash set for Friday

Vigils are planned at McMaster University for students Iman Aghabali, Mehdi Eshaghian and Siavash Maghsoudlou Estarabadi. The three were on an ill-fated plane leaving Iran on Wednesday. McMaster University

A memorial for the McMaster University students who were victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 is set for CIBC hall on Friday.

In a news release, the University said a vigil for graduate student Iman Aghabali  and PhD student Mehdi Eshaghian will take place at noon on the third floor of the McMaster student centre, organized by the undergraduate McMaster Iranian Student Association and the McMaster Iranian Graduate Student Society, with the support of the university.

Former McMaster post-doctoral researcher Siavash Maghsoudlou Estarabadi, who had worked in McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences until 2018, will also be remembered at the vigil.

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

Both Aghibali and Eshaghian, researchers at the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre, were on their way back to campus after visiting Iran over the holiday break, according to the university.

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The plane the pair were reported to be aboard, Flight 752, crashed moments after taking off from Tehran’s airport Wednesday, killing all of the 176 people on board — including 63 Canadians.

Doug Welch, the Dean of Graduate Studies at McMaster, told Global News the mood at the university is “primarily shock” since the news of the crash.

“This is a graduate student body where everybody’s quite close to each other and you’re basically one degree of separation away from anybody else,” said Welch.

Aghibali and Eshaghian were “very, very active” working with a group of researchers in the automotive research centre, according to Welch.

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“Basically, they were working on making vehicles more sustainable, on making them potentially drive themselves, making the power transmissions more efficient, so they use less energy.”

PhD supervisor Jennifer Bauman, who worked side-by-side with Aghibali, said he was more than just intelligent but “extremely kind and helpful.”

“He was working on high-voltage power trains,” said Bauman.

“So basically, if we move our vehicles to higher voltages, they can be more efficient. So he was really excited about kind of the future of electrified transportation.”

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

Bauman says she met Aghibali in September 2017, when she started working with him as one of his co-supervisors and said he was halfway to his PhD.

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“He had conference publications, he worked on journal papers. So, he was right in the middle of a very promising, exciting research career. But no, he did not finish.”

Bauman says support from the university has been “going over and above” with free counselling services through the Student Wellness Centre , Employee and Family Assistance Program , and the McMaster Chaplaincy Centre .

“They have multiple counsellors set up for day time, after hours, and through the night to call. So they have the regular resources, and they’ve added additional resources.”

READ MORE: European leaders call emergency meeting over Iran tensions

Recognition of the students and all of those who parished on the ill-fated flight were seen across Hamilton with many flags at half-mast, including the university and at both Hamilton and Burlington’s city hall.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger offered his condolences to families, friends and loved ones in a statement on Thursday.

“Our hearts break for Iman, Mehdi and Siavash’s families, friends and loved ones,” he said.

“May you be comforted by the outpouring of love and support surrounding you during this incredibly difficult time. Its impact is felt across our nation and we join together as a community in mourning the loss of the victims of this tragic crash.”

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Oakville will have a candlelight vigil for the victims on Sunday. The service will be open to the public and runs from 4 to 6 p.m. at Centennial Square.

Click to play video: 'U.S., Canadian intelligence indicate Iran shot down Ukrainian plane, killing 176 people' U.S., Canadian intelligence indicate Iran shot down Ukrainian plane, killing 176 people
U.S., Canadian intelligence indicate Iran shot down Ukrainian plane, killing 176 people – Jan 9, 2020

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