Newlyweds Pouneh and Arash Pourzarabi were on the doomed flight, according to friends.
Newlyweds Pouneh and Arash Pourzarabi were on the doomed flight, according to friends.

Wedding party killed on doomed flight

WARNING: Graphic

A Canadian wedding party, doctors, students and children are believed to have been onboard a doomed flight that was carrying 176 people when it crashed in Iran.

The Ukraine International Airlines jet was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev with 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries when disaster struck on Tuesday local time. There were no survivors.

Distraught relatives were today pictured at Kiev airport while they awaited news of their loved ones who were due to land on the aircraft.

One woman fought back tears, while a man was seen crouching to the floor and covering his face, The Sunreports.

The manifest included 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.

Nine of the Ukrainians killed were crew members, according to the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko. There were also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals, he said. Several teenagers and children, some as young as one or two-years-old, were among the dead.

Many of the other passengers were believed to be international students attending universities in Canada; they were making their way back to Toronto by way of Kiev after visiting with family during the winter break.

Former president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, Payman Parseyan, tweeted that other Canadian victims included 27 people from Edmonton, Alberta.

That figure included newlywed couple Pouneh Gorji, 25, and Arash Pourzarabi, 26. and several of their family members and friend, according to local media.

According to the Edmonton Journal, the group had travelled to Iran to attend the Friday wedding of Mr Gorji and Ms Pourzarabi, both students in computer science at the University of Alberta. The wedding party was returning home when the plane crashed.

Newlyweds Pouneh Gorji, 25, and Arash Pourzarabi, 26, were on the doomed flight, according to friends.
Newlyweds Pouneh Gorji, 25, and Arash Pourzarabi, 26, were on the doomed flight, according to friends.


A "good friend" of the pair, Azfar Rizvi, described the incident as "devastating".

"They had actually gotten married last week in Iran, and were returning home to Edmonton," Ms Rizvi wrote on Facebook.

"Both Pouneh and Arash worked at the University of Alberta, and were involved with significant work around Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning.

"They would have joined me in New York at the AI Summit in July later this year."

The newly married couple had studied at the same technology university in Tehran, Ms Rizvi added.

"Some times we forget how little control we have on our own lives," she said.

"I was on the same UIA flight a few weeks ago, this could've been me."






The plane crashed on the outskirts of Tehran during a takeoff attempt Wednesday hours after Iran launched its missile attack on US forces, scattering flaming debris and passengers' belongings across farmland and killing everyone on board.

The Iranian military disputed any suggestion the plane had been blown out of the sky by a missile, and Iranian aviation authorities said they suspected a mechanical problem brought down the three-year-old Boeing 737. Ukrainian officials initially agreed but later backed away and declined to offer a cause, citing an ongoing investigation.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy cut short a visit to Oman to return to Kiev and said a team of Ukrainian experts would go to Tehran to help investigate the crash.

"Our priority is to find the truth and everyone responsible for the tragedy," he wrote in a Facebook statement.







In Canada, where the crash ranked among the worst losses of life for Canadians in an aviation disaster, the flag over parliament in Ottawa was lowered to half-mast, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country was "shocked and saddened."

He vowed the government will work to "ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated and that Canadians' questions are answered."

Major world airlines Wednesday rerouted flights crossing the Middle East to avoid danger amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran, and the US Federal Aviation Administration barred American flights from certain Persian Gulf airspace, warning of the "potential for miscalculation or misidentification" of civilian aircraft.

The plane had been delayed from taking off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport by almost an hour. It never made it above 8,000 feet, crashing just minutes after takeoff, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.

Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire erupted in one of its engines and the pilot lost control of the plane, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. The news report did not explain how Iranian authorities knew that.

The pilot apparently couldn't communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight, said Hassan Razaeifar, the head of the air crash investigation committee. He did not elaborate.



Ukraine International Airlines President Yevhen Dykhne, said the aircraft "was one of the best planes we had, with an amazing, reliable crew." In a statement, the airline went further, saying: "Given the crew's experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance." General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for the Iranian armed forces, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as denying the plane has been brought down by a missile.

"The rumours about the plane are completely false and no military or political expert has confirmed it," he said. He said the rumours were "psychological warfare" by the government's opponents.

Authorities said they found the plane's so-called black boxes, which record cockpit conversations and instrument data. But it was not immediately clear how much access to the information the Iranians would allow.

Aviation experts were sceptical about Iran's initial claim that the plane was brought down by a mechanical problem.

"I don't see how they would have known that so quickly," said John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at MIT. "They hadn't had time to look at the flight data recorder. They probably hadn't had time to investigate the physical wreckage of the engines. How do you know it was a mechanical issue versus a surface-to-air missile that went in the engine?" Many planes have systems that send huge amounts of technical data, including potential problems with the engines or other key systems, to the airline and the manufacturer. But it was unclear whether Ukraine International had paid to download that information automatically during flights, or how much data from such a short flight would tell.

A Boeing spokesman declined to say whether the company obtained any information about the jet during its ill-fated flight.

In 1988, a US navy cruiser mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger jet over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. Earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani referred to that episode in responding to US President Donald Trump's threat to attack 52 targets in Iran.

"Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290," Mr Rouhani tweeted. "Never threaten the Iranian nation."

Din Mohammad Qassemi said he had been watching the news about the Iranian missile attack on US troops in Iraq in revenge for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani when he heard the crash.

"I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere," he said. "At first I thought (the Americans) have hit here with missiles and went in the basement as a shelter. After a while, I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there. Body parts were lying around everywhere." The crash left a wide field of debris scattered across farmland, the dead lying among pieces of the shattered aircraft. Their possessions, including a child's cartoon-covered electric toothbrush, a stuffed animal, luggage and electronics, stretched everywhere.

Rescuers in masks shouted over the noise of hovering helicopters. They quickly realised there would be no survivors.

This was the first fatal crash involving Ukraine International Airlines, which began flying in 1992, according to the Aviation Safety Network, which tracks accidents.


- With wires | @Megan_Palin