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Canada's Universities Mourn Their Students in Tehran Plane Crash

Debris is seen from an Ukrainian plane which crashed as authorities work at the scene in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Jan. 8, 2020.

At least 40 victims of the Ukrainian plane crash in Tehran were students or researchers active in Canadian universities or research communities.

Most were students returning to Canada after spending winter break in Iran, according to University Affairs (UA) of Canada. Dozens of students, professors and researchers from at least 18 universities across the country have been identified among the victims, the UA news service reported. Among the 176 killed in the crash, 140 were traveling to Canada, with a stopover in Kyiv, Ukraine. Sixty-three were Canadian citizens.

"We have learned, with profound sorrow, that several U of T students were among the 176 people killed in the crash," University of Toronto President Meric Gertler wrote. "On behalf of the entire University of Toronto community, I want to say how deeply saddened we are, and how concerned we are for the families and friends of those who lost their lives."

Newlyweds Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji were master’s students in computer science at the University of Alberta.

The university also lost Mojgan Daneshmand, a Canada Research Chair in radio frequency microsystems, who was returning to Canada with her husband, Pedram Mousavi, a professor of mechanical engineering. The couple's two daughters were also killed in the crash.

University of Alberta President David H. Turpin wrote, "Words simply cannot express the loss I know we all are feeling. On behalf of the University of Alberta, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, colleagues and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy."

"Ours is a closely interconnected community, and we grieve with everyone touched by this terrible loss — friends, classmates, roommates, professors, students, mentors and colleagues," Turpin added.

In some cases, the victims included family members — such as Dalhousie University engineering student Masoumeh Ghavi and her younger sister Mandieh Ghavi. The younger sister was an incoming student at the Nova Scotia school, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Among those killed in the crash were undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in fields including electrical engineering, computer systems technology, human and veterinary medicine, geography, finance, business, environment, geomatics, marketing and consumer studies, molecular genetics and human resources.

"The Science Students' Association is deeply saddened by the loss of our peers in the tragic plane crash in Iran," tweeted @SSA_AES. "We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those affected. Our thoughts are with you as we face this very sad time."

The educational institutions impacted were the University of Toronto, University of Alberta, Carleton University, Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, McMaster University, University of Manitoba, Ontario Tech University, University of Ottawa, University of Quebec, Queen's University, Ryerson University, Saint Mary's University, University of Victoria, University of Waterloo, Western University, University of Windsor and York University.

"This is not right," London, Ontario, Mayor Ed Holder told the Western News, his voice breaking with emotion. "We should not be here this afternoon grieving the loss of these four young people. We should be celebrating their return home. It’s not right."