University of Windsor students, researchers honoured following Iran crash

WINDSOR, Ont. — The loved ones of five Windsor, Ont.-based students and researchers killed in the Iran plane crash joined together in their grief Friday as they remembered the "shining stars" extinguished in the tragedy.

Friends, supervisors and community leaders spoke at a memorial service that the University of Windsor arranged for the five victims, including two married couples.

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Zahra Naghibi and spouse Mohammad Abaspour Ghadi; Samira Bashiri and spouse Hamidreza Setareh; and Pedram Jadidi were among the 176 people aboard Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, which crashed just minutes after taking off from Tehran early Wednesday.

"On Tuesday night, many of us in this room went to bed anticipating that our friends, family, colleagues, students would be back in Windsor in the morning, ready to do the work that they loved," Dr. Lisa Porter told the memorial, describing Bashiri as part of her lab family.

"None of us could have imagined the events that would unfold. None of us could have imagined so many shining stars lost at once."

Of the 176 who died in the crash, 138 were travelling through Kyiv and on to Canada, officials have said.

Rupp Carriveau, Naghibi's faculty adviser, highlighted the scale of the tragedy in his speech at the memorial.

"This tragedy was far-reaching and reminds us of how interconnected we are," he said, explaining he was in Waterloo, Ont., listening to a PhD defence when he saw there had been a crash.

"I was very concerned and scared. And then I got another email the next moment that was about Zahra. It was very hard to carry on, but I'm glad that we did carry on," he said, adding that the PhD candidate he saw also lost a sister-in-law in the crash.

Carriveau said Naghibi had an unbelievable work ethic that inspired his whole team.

"What we asked her for, she made better. And that's what she's really done for us and what she's done for me as a person, is she's made us better. I'm extremely grateful for having known her," he said, his voice breaking.

Naghibi was in Iran with her husband, Abaspour Ghadi, whose friend described the couple as a staple of his life in Canada.

"Their presence turned the cold days of winter into the warm welcome of summer," Mehran Eshaghi said. "Mohammad believed in living the moments with friends, and he believed with friends, everything would be possible."

Maryam Shafiei described the other couple killed, Bashiri and Setareh, as "the glue" in her group of friends, and said she is still grappling with what it will mean to live without them.

"If we had lived in a fair world, it would have not been me giving this speech," she said through tears, addressing Bashiri. "It would have been you giving a maid of honour speech in the wedding ceremony. We made a deal. How could you do that to me? I'm really mad at you, and next time we meet, you'd better make it up to me."

Shafiei said nobody could compare to Bashiri and her husband.

"It's undeniable that perfection doesn't last, and they were the best example of perfection, the lovely couple," she said.

Meanwhile, Naser Torabi said Jadidi had been both a remarkable PhD student and a kind friend.

He had moved to Canada at the beginning of 2019 shortly after his father's death, Torabi said, noting he was back in Iran to mark that sombre anniversary with his family.

"Who would have thought this was going to be his last farewell to his mother?" he asked. "Who would believe this beautiful family would lose a father and son in a year?"

At times throughout the ceremony, the microphones on stage picked up the sounds of audience members sobbing.

—by Nicole Thompson in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2020.

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