Victims of the fatal Ukraine plane crash included students from the world’s best universities, newlyweds, and a wife separated from her husband by a ticket error

A composite image of debris from the Ukraine International Airlines and Saeed Tahmasebi, one of the victims.

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A composite image of debris from the Ukraine International Airlines and Saeed Tahmasebi, one of the victims.
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Reuters/Nazanin Tabatabaee;Imperial College London
  • A Ukraine International Airlines flight carrying 176 people crashed minutes after it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport early on Wednesday. There were no survivors.
  • The victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, as well as nationals from Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the UK, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister.
  • The airline posted a list of all of their identities later on Wednesday, and stories are starting to emerge about their lives.
  • Among those killed were students at some of the world’s top universities, and families who had spent the holiday season in Iran visiting relatives.
  • One was Saeed Tahmasebi, a student at Imperial College London. “His story embodies the dedication and struggle that Iranian students around the world experience when advancing their careers abroad,” a colleague told Business Insider.
  • If you knew one of the victims and would like to share a story, you can contact this reporter at sesfandiari@businessinsider.com
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A Ukraine International Airlines plane carrying 176 people crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran, Iran, to Kyiv, Ukraine, early Wednesday morning, killing everyone on board.

Investigations into what caused Flight PS 752’s fatal crash are still underway. US and Canadian intelligence services believe the plane was shot down by a missile, while Iranian authorities deny this and have cited technical problems with the aircraft.

The victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians as well as nationals from Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the UK, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister.

An initial report released by the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization in Iran has differing figures, placing the numbers at 146 Iranians, 11 Ukrainians, ten Afghans, five Canadians, and four Swedes.

These numbers are different likely because there were a number of dual citizens on board, and Iran’s figures relate to the passports used to leave Iran.

Relatives of the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines crash at a makeshift memorial at the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv on January 8, 2020.

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Relatives of the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines crash at a makeshift memorial at the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv on January 8, 2020.
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SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The airline posted a list of all the passengers and crew members’ identities later on Wednesday, and stories are starting to emerge about their lives.

According to testimonies posted by the victims’ family and friends, many of them were traveling home from visiting relatives during the holidays, and students heading back to universities around the world for the start of the new academic term.

Newlyweds, students, wives, and daughters

Among those killed is Saeed Tahmasebi, a PhD student in systems engineering at Imperial College London, a top university in the UK.

The university described Tahmasebi as a brilliant engineer with a bright future, and said his contributions to systems engineering will benefit society for years to come.

Shirin Hakim, the president of the university’s Iranian Society, told Business Insider that Tahmasebi had been on their way back to the UK from Tehran with his wife on Flight 752. Both died in the crash.

“His story embodies the dedication and struggle that Iranian students around the world experience when advancing their careers abroad,” she said.

The Iranian-Canadian community has been hit particularly hard, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling reporters Wednesday that 138 passengers on Flight 752 had been flying to Kyiv to connect to Canada.

Many of the 63 Canadians on the flight were also students at Canadian universities.

Newlyweds Arash Pourzarabi, 26, and Pouneh Gourji, 25, were graduate students at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, Reuters reported.

They had been traveling back to Canada after celebrating their wedding one week ago, the news agency said.

Mohammad Hossein and Zeynab Asadilari, a Canadian-Iranian brother and sister, both died in the crash.

According to the BBC’s “Today” radio program Wednesday, Asadilari was in her 20s and a close friend described her as “such a traveler, she loved exploring the world.”

Nikitah Tarabian, another friend, told the BBC: “I don’t know how to react – this person we were literally texting two days ago. She was online on social media and then within a few minutes she was gone.”

Trudeau paid tribute to the Canadian academics on the flight, calling them “bright students and dedicated faculty members, all had so much potential, so much life ahead of them.”

Neda Maghbouleh, an Iranian assistant professor at the University of Toronto, also tweeted that the death of “young, brilliant, hopeful Iranians who were returning to their studies in Canada represents an unfathomable loss to Canadian higher education, arts, science.”

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario, lost his wife and daughter in the crash. He told CBC Toronto that it was “not fair what happened,” and said he had to call his daughter’s school to tell them she will not be returning.

Sheyda Shadkhoo, who lived and worked in Toronto, had been in Tehran to visit her mother and sisters and on her way home, according to CNN.

Her husband, Hassan Shadkhoo, told CNN she had called him 20 minutes before the flight took off, saying she was worried about tensions between Iran and the US following the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

“She wanted me to assure her that there wasn’t going to be a war. I told her not to worry. Nothing’s gonna happen,” Shadkhoo told CBC.

One family has been split forever after a ticket error meant that Ottawa resident Roja Azadian boarded the flight, while her husband Mohsen Ahmadipour stayed at the airport.

He was still in the terminal when he found out about the crash and his wife’s death, according to local Canadian newspaper the Ottawa Citizen.

The couple had been visiting family and were due to board the plane together, but when they arrived at the airport Ahmadipour was told his ticket was no longer valid, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Saharnaz Haghjoo and her eight-year-old daughter Elsa were also killed in the crash. Her father provided a photo of the pair to Global News as they were sat on the plane waiting for it to take off.

According to Global News Haghjoo had a career as television host in Iran before moving to Canada where she worked with refugee women at the YWCA, a Canadian association working with vulnerable women.

The plane’s model, Boeing 737-800, is the previous generation of Boeing’s 737 family of jets. The current generation, the 737 Max, is currently grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.

If you knew one of the victims and would like to share a story, you can contact this reporter at sesfandiari@businessinsider.com.