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.

Just Posted

Black Press Media file photo
Tofino sets municipal tax rates

Tofino’s residential property values are rising while businesses are declining.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Amphitrite Point lighthouse on Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail during a massive winter storm. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan public hearing goes ahead despite push back

A petition calling on Ucluelet council to postpone the May 13 virtual event fails to deter

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chief says community “devastated” by third police shooting

Woman shot by Ucluelet RCMP in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8.

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
Coquitlam teacher suspended after calling students ’cutie, ‘’sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

Scenes like this one in the dugout are all too frequent for parents and kids arriving to play baseball at Nunns Creek Park these days, spurring a request to the city to let them move to the Sportsplex in Willow Point. Photo from CRMB presentation to City of Campbell River
Needles, feces and the unhoused send Island kids baseball program to greener pastures

Campbell River minor baseball program switches ballparks over growing safety concerns

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

Most Read