The University of Victoria’s Grad Student Society (GSS) is hosting an informal memorial this evening to commemorate the lives of the 176 passengers lost when a Ukrainian plane went down in a fatal crash in Iran on Wednesday.
According to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, the plane was carrying 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons. The plane was heading to Kyiv, with 138 of the passengers scheduled to transfer from Kyiv to Toronto.
At least 11 people on board were from B.C. including Roja Omidbakhsh, who was a first-year commerce student at UVic.
“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” said Mark Colgate, Omidbakhsh’s professor of commerce in a statement. “We’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.”
GSS Chair Mehdi Hashemi is of Iranian descent and released a statement on the GSS Facebook page.
“These Canadian victims largely belonged to the academic community in British Columbia and across Canada. For that reason, we (the Executive Board of the UVic Graduate Students’ Society) feel compelled to share our deepest condolences, and express solidarity, with the individuals, families and communities, especially the Iranian-Canadian community and the academic communities, impacted by this sad event,” Hashemi wrote.
The GSS is hosting an informal memorial Thursday night from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Side Project Cafe in the Halpern Grad Centre on the University of Victoria campus at 3800 Finnerty Rd.
Members of the Victoria Iranian-Persian Cultural Society are also attending the event, posting a message on their Facebook page.
“The tragic news of the plane crash in Iran has shocked us all. So many people including dozens of Iranian-Canadians lost their lives. It is now confirmed that amongst the victims, there was an undergraduate UVic student as well,” the post reads. “We, too, are deeply sad to hear this tragic news, and share our deepest of condolences, and express our solidarity with those directly or indirectly impacted.”
All members of the community are welcome to attend.
“This surely is a distressing moment for all of us, and we want to reach out to everyone affected,” Hashemi wrote. “All members of the Iranian-Canadian community, as well as friends and allies on or off the campus are welcome. This will be an informal gathering, please feel free to come and go as your time permits.”
– With files from Kendra Crighton, The Canadian Press