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Standing room only at 3rd Calgary vigil for victims of Iran plane crash

On Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, dozens of people lined up to sign a book of condolences at Calgary's third memorial for Iran plane crash victims.
On Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, dozens of people lined up to sign a book of condolences at Calgary's third memorial for Iran plane crash victims. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

A University of Calgary theatre was packed and guests spilled out into the hallway to watch the service on monitors on Sunday, as hundreds mourned those killed in the Jan. 8 plane crash in Iran.

All 176 passengers aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, from Tehran to Kyiv, were killed when the Iranian military unintentionally shot it down.

READ MORE: Over 20 Canadian universities and colleges mourn students, faculty killed in Iran plane crash

Mohammad Abbaspour organized the memorial, saying “we couldn’t mourn this alone.”

“This is the only way that we could express our feelings,” he said.

“All the students here had at least one or a few friends on that plane. We couldn’t do anything less to express our deep sadness. This is a celebration of their lives and also an opportunity for us to heal our hearts. Everybody is heartbroken. We had friends, we had very good memories with them, and we also hear the stories of someone we didn’t know but that is very tragic.”

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READ MORE: University of Alberta identifies 10 victims of Iran plane crash with ties to university

Abbaspour was friends with crash victim Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi, a University of Alberta engineering master’s graduate.

“Once we were on a plane from here to Iran, so I can’t imagine thinking of the moments on the plane that he may have had,” he said.

Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi earned his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta in 2017.
Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi earned his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta in 2017. Credit: LinkedIn

Abbaspour is remembering his friend as energetic and happy.

“Always hopeful, very talented, lots of achievements in his career,” he said. “The first thing I can remember of him is just a very nice smile on his face every time.”

A lineup formed for the book of condolences at the University of Calgary vigil on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020.
A lineup formed for the book of condolences at the University of Calgary vigil on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. Mike Hills/Global News

With hundreds inside the theatre and a lineup forming to sign the condolence book, the turnout at Sunday’s vigil pleased Abbaspour.

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“It shows that all the community is heartbroken over this tragedy,” he said.

“We didn’t have enough time to organize and advertise for this event, and as you see, everybody has come far more than we expected. This shows the empathy, sympathy from all the people here and that also calms us.”

People filled a University of Calgary theatre on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020 to pay tribute to victims of the Iran plane crash.
People filled a University of Calgary theatre on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020 to pay tribute to victims of the Iran plane crash. Mike Hills/Global News

Vigils were also held in the city on Friday and Saturday.