Vigil to be held for University of Guelph students killed in Iran plane crash

The University of Guelph is holding a vigil on Friday evening for two PhD students who were killed in the Iran plane crash.

Like so many others killed, Ghanimat Azhdari and Milad Ghasemi Ariani were both returning to school after visiting family in Iran over the holiday break.

The plane they were aboard, Flight 752, crashed moments after taking off from Tehran’s airport Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians and others who may have lived in Canada for school or work.

Friday’s vigil is being organized by the Guelph Iranian Student Association and will take place at War Memorial Hall.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. and there will be slide show along with remarks from the community, including faculty who worked with the students.

The university said Azhdari started her PhD this past September and was studying biocultural conservation.

Azhdari was a member of the Indigenous and Conserved Communities Area Consortium, which said she was a true force of nature and one of its “most cherished flowers.”

“We are in utter disbelief and heartbroken at the sudden loss of such a beautiful young life — a true force of nature,” officials from the ICCA Consortium said in a statement on its website.

Ariani was studying consumer behaviour and had also started his PhD in September.

Tirtha Dhar, chair of the department of marketing and consumer studies, described Ariani as passionate and dedicated, with an impact that was felt by everyone.

“He had tremendous potential,” Dhar said in an interview with Global News. “He came from a program that has produced amazingly good-grade students and we really wanted him to work with us. So it’s a big loss, but I’m sure it’s a huge loss even for his family.”

Flags on the university’s campus have been lowered to half-mast and Friday’s vigil will also be live-streamed for those who can’t attend.

Global News has also learned that a Guelph dentist died in the crash as well.

In a letter to patients, Dawson Dental confirmed Dr. Parisa Eghbalian and her nine-year-old daughter Reera Esmaeilion were on the flight.

“In these moments, there are no words to express, other than to say that we extend our deepest sympathies to her husband and family members. Our hearts and thoughts are with them during this very difficult time.”

Eghbalian, 42, was also a co-owner of a dental clinic in Aurora with her husband, who stayed in Canada to run the practice.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie also expressed his sympathies.

“Our community is heartbroken,” he said in a tweet. “Our prayers, our thoughts and our compassion is sent to all impacted by this loss.”

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