VIDEO: Questions on cause of Iran plane crash stir fear, confusion

Canadian officials say 138 of the 176 passengers aboard plane had a connecting flight to Canada

VIDEO: Questions on cause of Iran plane crash stir fear, confusion

Mounting questions surrounding the circumstances of a plane crash outside Tehran that left no survivors fuelled confusion, fear and anger Thursday among those grieving the deaths of dozens of passengers bound for Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said intelligence from multiple sources indicates the Ukraine International Airlines flight was downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, echoing statements from Ukrainian officials and U.S. President Donald Trump earlier in the day. Both Trudeau and Trump said the strike might have been unintentional.

The prime minister has said 138 of the 176 passengers aboard the Kyiv-bound plane that crashed Wednesday morning, local time, had a connecting flight to Canada, and the identities of the dead were slowly coming to light through relatives, friends and employers.

When Hassan Shadkhoo learned his wife Sheyda Shadkoo, 41, had died in the crash, he flew to Istanbul overnight in the hopes of making his way to Tehran. He was still in Turkey waiting to board a plane as Trudeau spoke of Iran’s possible involvement in the incident.

READ MORE: How a missile might have shot a plane down in Iran, and what a probe will look for

“It was no accident, no accident,” he said through heavy tears after hearing the news. “These are acts of terrorism. My wife was murdered.”

Nina Saeidpour, a Calgary real estate agent whose friend, Kasra Saati, was among the victims, said the latest developments made the loss even harder to bear.

“If something like this happened as an accident, it’s much easier to take in than when you hear that maybe it got shot,” she said Thursday afternoon.

“It makes it much harder for people to take in and everybody right now in the community is in shock and sad and of course they’re really mad if something like this happened not as an accident.”

Bijan Ahmadi, an Iranian-Canadian in Toronto and the executive director of the not-for-profit organization Peace and Diplomacy, said the community needs answers, particularly in light of the claims of an Iranian missile strike.

“I’m speechless to explain that,” he said. ”If that is the case, it will be very difficult for Iranian people to absorb that, to accept that. The impact is huge.”

Confusion surrounding the cause of the crash, combined with concern over the escalating political conflict, could deter some Iranian-Canadians from visiting relatives back home, said Majid Zohari, another Iranian-Canadian living in the Toronto area.

“Every single Iranian I know personally has some ties to Iran — to the community, not the regime. So this is a story that unfortunately has a huge impact on everyone, directly or indirectly,” he said.

The list of confirmed victims, which included newlyweds, families and university students, continued to grow Thursday as more were identified by loved ones.

Hadis Hayatdavoudi, a student at Western University, was returning from a month-long visit with relatives in Iran — her first such trip since she moved to Canada in 2018 — when she died, her research supervisor said.

Jamie Noel said Hayatdavoudi was on flight 752 so she could be back in Canada in time to act as a teaching assistant for one of his courses.

“She found Canadians were very welcoming to her, coming from so far away, all by herself, a single woman in a strange country with a different language,” Noel said.

Montrealer Shahab Raana left behind a successful career in Iran to come to Canada for a better future, according to his close friend Hamidreza Zanedi.

Zanedi, who first met Raana about 15 years ago in Iran, said his friend posted a selfie from the plane on an Iranian messaging app just before takeoff. He said his friends in Iran have also been in touch with Raana’s family, who are in a “state of shock and sorrow.”

Zanedi said Raana was taking courses in Montreal to improve his language skills and gain Canadian work experience. He’d booked a trip back to Iran without telling his family because he wanted to surprise them, Zanedi said.

A public outpouring of grief continued in Canada. Vigils were held Thursday evening in Ottawa, Toronto and in other communities.

Despite frigid temperatures, hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill to honour the eight victims confirmed to have had ties to the capital.

One by one, people came forward to lay candles, flowers and other trinkets together with photos of their friends and loved ones who died. One woman swept tears from her eyes as she placed a tray of chocolates in front a photo of one of the victims.

Some openly wept and turned to friends for hugs of consolation. Others stood quietly with sad eyes glowing against the light of the Centennial Flame, seemingly unaffected by the deep cold night.

Amir Hossein was among them. He knew two of the victims — Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student at Carleton University and Mehraban Badiei, a first-year student at the University of Ottawa.

He said the train of events affecting Iranians leading up to this tragedy, including the tensions and attacks traded between Iran and the United States, has made it even tougher for him to bear the sadness of losing friends.

“It’s very hard to handle all these things together,” Hossein said.

“And when you have such a thing, such an airplane crash, such a saddening moment, it’s very hard.”

Daniella Santos was a co-worker of Alma Oladi, who was also a PhD student at the University of Ottawa studying mathematics before losing her life in the crash. Santos said she wanted to remember and honour her friend.

“She always, always had a smile. She was always happy. Whenever you would come in, she would say hi. I’ll miss her around.”

Trudeau made a brief and quiet appearance. He laid a bouquet of white roses at the makeshift memorial and then bent his head for a moment of quiet reflection.

In Toronto, hundreds of people came to Mel Lastman Square to attend a vigil.

Some carried photos of victims. Others wept while lighting candles and placing flowers at a makeshift memorial.

Negar Khalili came to pay tribute to her friend, Mahdieh Ghassemi, who died in the crash along with her son and daughter. They were returning from a visit with family in Iran.

“I cannot believe I’m holding her picture and she’s not here anymore.”

Farnaz Bigeli came to the vigil to mourn her friend Farhad Niknam. The father of two had just passed exams to become a dentist in Ontario weeks before he travelled back to Iran to visit family.

“We were shocked when we saw his name on the passenger list,” she said. “I’m thinking about his wife and kids.”

Bigeli, who came to Canada from Iran, said the revelations that the plane was likely hit by a missile have made her angry at the Iranian government.

“My friend had nothing to do with the politics,” she said.

A memorial service was also planned Friday at the University of Windsor, which lost five members of its student and research community in the crash.

Early Thursday morning, Iran released an initial investigative report about the crash, which is among the deadliest air disasters involving Canadians.

The jetliner’s crew were trying to turn back for the airport when the burning plane went down, the report says, noting that they never made a radio call for help. In emergencies, pilots typically immediately contact air-traffic controllers.

Eyewitnesses, including the crew of another flight passing above it, described seeing the plane engulfed in flames before crashing, the document says.

The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Ukraine’s capital city.

The document also says that both of the black boxes that contain data and cockpit communications from the plane have been recovered, though they sustained damage and some parts of their memory was lost.

In the report, Iran says it is inviting Canada and all of the other countries affected to participate in the investigation. Ukraine’s government has said the plane was carrying 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers and crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons.

Under rules set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the countries where the crash happened, where the plane is registered, where the plane’s operator is located, and where its manufacturer is based are all part of the investigation.

In this case, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board of the Civil Aviation Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in charge, while Ukraine will assist.

The secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council told Ukrainian media that officials had several working theories regarding the crash, including a missile strike.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he believes Iran was responsible for the crash, dismissing the country’s initial claim that it was a mechanical issue.

“Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side,” Trump said, noting the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighbourhood.”

Iran’s military denied that a missile hit the airplane in a comment reported Wednesday by the semiofficial Fars news agency. They dismissed the allegation as “psychological warfare” by foreign-based Iranian opposition groups.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Island Health is expected to begin public consultations soon on its controversial plans to open a new wellness and recovery centre at 5878 York Road. (File photo)
Public consultations on Duncan wellness and recovery centre coming in February

Controversial facility on York Road scheduled to open in June

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
16% boom predicted for B.C. real estate sales in 2021: experts

Along with sales, the average price of homes is also predicted to rise, by nearly 8 percent

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer in West Kootenay in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Brad Windsor has been an advocate for years to get sidewalks installed along Milburn Drive in Colwood, but to no avail. He wants city council to commit to making Milburn a priority lane for sidewalk construction in the future. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash caught on B.C. home security camera

Angry residents say video highlights need for sidewalks in B.C. residential neighbourhood

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

In this May 23, 2012, file photo, an approximately 2-year-old female cougar runs away from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trap after being released northeast of Arlington, Wash. A cougar has attacked and severely mauled a man in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Mulligan/The Daily Herald via AP
Cougar euthanized in B.C. after severely mauling a man north of Vancouver

Whistler RCMP officers were first on the scene and shot and killed a cougar prowling nearby

Dex needs surgery after breaking his paw in the panic caused by an apartment fire. (Submitted)
Dog needs surgery after escaping burning North Island building

Fundraiser started for veterinarian costs after Dex breaks paw dropping from upper floor apartment

Most Read