UWaterloo mourns loss of two students following Iran plane crash


While on route to Kyiv on Jan. 8, Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot and crashed in a field. All 176 passengers on board were killed, including 57 Canadians. 

Two of the passengers were UWaterloo students: Mansour Esnaashary Esfahani and Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan. 

Esfahani, aged 29, was a PhD student in civil engineering who had travelled to Iran in December for his marriage. His wife was not on Flight PS752 and planned to join her new husband in Waterloo next month. Esfahani had been studying at UWaterloo since 2017 and his doctoral research was focused on construction automation and management.

Foroutan, aged 37, was a PhD student in geography. Her websites describes her research as focused on “the application of new algorithms and technologies in remote sensing to study climate change.” Foroutan also held degrees from the University of Calgary and Shiraz University in Iran.

“Everyone at Waterloo is shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Mari Foroutan and Mansour Esfahani,” UWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur said in a statement issued the day of the crash. “Our hearts ache for them, their friends and family with whom we all mourn together.”

Alumnus Mojgan Daneshmand, her husband Pedram Moussavi, and their two daughters also died in the crash. Daneshmand earned her doctorate in Electrical Engineering from UWaterloo in 2006, and was an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Alberta. She was also a Canada Research Chair Tier II in Radio Frequency Microsystems for Communication and Sensing.

Daneshmand’s university biography says she was honoured in 2016 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s foremost engineering organization, for her contributions to the field of microwave engineering and “being a role model for women in engineering.”

Moussavi was also a professor at the University of Alberta, which identified 10 victims who were affiliated with the university.

UWaterloo will hold a memorial service for the victims on Jan. 15 at noon at Federation Hall.

Immediately following the crash, the Iranian government released a statement saying that the incident was the result of an engine fire which caused the pilot to lose control and crash the plane. The Ukranian government initially supported this statement, but soon redacted its statement, saying anything was possible and the plane may have been brought down by a missile. 

The next day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference saying that Canada and its allies had intelligence suggesting that Iran had fired the missile. Finally, on Jan. 11, the Iranian military admitted it had shot down the aircraft, saying that it was erroneously identified as a hostile target. 

It was widely speculated that the strike was in retaliation to the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3 by the United States. Soleimani was the Iranian second in command and leader of the nation’s campaign to expand its influence across the Middle East. 

Trudeau refused to comment on whether or not he believes American President Donald Trump bears some responsibility for the incident but said he has spoken to him about the “need to de-escalate tensions.”

Following Soleimani’s assassination, protests erupted in Iran against the United States. However, following  Jan. 11’s admission of guilt, the protests have taken aim at the Iranian government for downing the plane.  82 of the 176 victims were Iranian.

On Jan. 12, it was reported that the Iranian government restricted internet access and social media platforms in the country as an attempt to quell the protests.

Also among the 57 Canadian victims was the family of a Maple Leaf Foods employee. The CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, sparked a reaction on Jan. 12 when he used the company’s Twitter account to express his personal thoughts on the incident.

“A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart [and] destabilizes [the] region… 63 Canadians needlessly lost their lives in the crossfire, including the family of one of my MLF colleagues… I am livid,” McCain said.

Canada will host a meeting in London on Jan. 16 in which members of the International Coordination and Response Group will formulate a plan to access the black box data from the flight and push for credible answers from the Iranian government.

Trudeau said his goal at the meeting will be to demand justice for the victims and ensure they are repatriated for burial.


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