Calgary teen victim of Tehran plane crash wanted to be a doctor, like both his parents

Calgary teen victim of Tehran plane crash wanted to be a doctor, like both his parents

Calgary high school student Arshia Arbabbahrami had plans to attend medical school, just like both of his parents, who are doctors in Iran, one of his teachers tells CBC News.

"He was very careful spending his money, saying 'my parents are working so hard, I don't want to waste the money,'" Parastoo Soleimani said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from Iran.

"Even with his parents not around, he is studious. He spends a lot of time studying. He was a very polite guy. He didn't smoke, didn't drink, he would exercise."

Arbabbahrami, 19, and fellow Calgarian Kasra Saati were among at least 63 Canadians killed when Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 bound for Kyiv crashed moments after it left the Tehran airport early Wednesday local time.

All 176 people aboard, including the crew, died.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of the passengers were Canada-bound.

Three years ago, Arbabbahrami moved to Calgary to attend high school.

"Arshia was a valued member of our school community who attended Western Canada High School for the past three years," school principal Carma Cornea said in a statement to parents.

"Arshia was highly involved in athletic activities, such as the track and field and swim and dive team. Arshia was returning to Canada after spending the holidays with his family in Iran. He dreamt of being a doctor and was a leader in our community who many students looked up to. Our collective thoughts are with Arshia's family and friends, both in Iran as well as in Canada."

Student's mother in 'total denial'

Soleimani has known and taught the Arbabbahrami family for six years. The teen's parents, aunts and grandmother live in Iran.

"Before Christmas, he was crying and telling his parents, 'I really miss my family, I really miss my grandma. I want to come down here and see them and my friends,'" Soleimani said.

"The entire family was shocked. His mom couldn't take it. She could not accept it. She was in total denial," she said, once the family confirmed the news of the crash.

Supplied by Parastoo Soleimani

A better future

Kasra Saati — an aircraft mechanic formerly with Viking Air — was the second Calgary-based victim CBC News has confirmed.

"His loss is deeply felt by everyone who had the opportunity to work with him," spokesperson Angela Murray wrote in an emailed statement.

"We share our sincere condolences with the family and all those impacted by this tragic event."

A family friend said Saati came to Canada for a better life.

"He was just ordinary guy, you know, trying to make a better future for himself and his family and of course their kids," Nina Saeidpour said.

Crash cause unknown

The crash, called one of the deadliest disasters involving Canadian citizens in decades, is being investigated.

The carnage comes on the heels of tanking Iran-United States relations.

The U.S. government killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week in a drone strike, causing outrage in Iran.

Iran responded by attacking Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops.

Trudeau was asked if he could categorically say that the PS752 crash, which happened just hours after Iran launched the ballistic missile attack, was not shot down.

"I cannot. It is too early to speculate," he said.

At first, both Ukrainian and Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, but the Ukrainian Embassy in Iran later said any previous comments about the cause of the crash were not official.

Supplied by family of Kasra Saati

U of C alumni also among dead

Two University of Calgary alumni who had moved away from Calgary were also among the dead, the university said Thursday as it announced it was lowering the campus flag to honour the 176 victims of the crash.

One of the victims was Shadi Jamshidi, 32, a technical sales consultant in Mississauga, Ont., who was a permanent resident in Canada working toward citizenship, a close friend, Hamid Mehr, told As It Happens on Wednesday.

She was in Tehran visiting her father, he said. 

"She was my dear friend. I've known her for three years. The more I knew her, the more I came to like her," Mehr said. 

"She was a lovely person all around, the sort of person you would like to be around, the sort of person that would cheer you up and who would be always there for you. It's so hard to think that such a person is gone.… I can't understand this," Mehr said.

Submitted by Hamid Mehr

Another was Marzieh Foroutan, who was a PhD student studying geography at the University of Waterloo in southern Ontario.

Foroutan graduated from the University of Calgary in 2017 with a master of science, the U of C said.

Drinda Wilson knew Foroutan from her time in Calgary.

"She was a very modest, kind woman who was quite brilliant. She loved the sand dunes on Mars," Wilson said.

"I am very saddened by her senseless death"

  • Do you know of any other victims of the crash who were from or formerly lived in Calgary? If so, let us know at Calgarynewstips@cbc.ca