One year later, University of Windsor faculty remembers local victims of Ukraine plane crash
WINDSOR, ONT -- Friends and colleagues at the University of Windsor are still grieving, one year after flight PS752 crashed in Ukraine, killing all 176 people on board the plane.
The flight, from Tehran to Kyiv, on route to Canada, was shot town shortly after takeoff by a surface-to-air missile launched by Iran.
Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 62 Canadian citizens and five people – returning to Canada after the holidays – were part of the University of Windsor community.
Zahra Naghibi was a PhD student at the turbulence and energy lab. Her husband, Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi, also died in the crash.
Pedram Jadidi was a PhD student in civil engineering.
Samira Bashiri was working in a lab at the University of Windsor and her husband Hamidreza Setareh Kokab was a PhD student in mechanical engineering.
University of Windsor President Robert Gordon recalls the feelings of sadness, disbelief, shock and anger of learning that grim news.
“Their lives were filled with promise and possibility. Then, with no warning, they were caught in the middle of a needless and senseless tragedy,” President Gordon said in a statement issued to CTV Windsor.
“The impact on all of us at the University of Windsor was devastating - for both those who knew them well, and those who didn't,” he said. “We all felt a bond. They represented everything that we hold dear - hope for a future of commitment and accomplishment, and the successful search for a place in life where dreams can become a reality.”
Faculty at the university also shared a close bond with the victims.
“For us, I think we’re still kind of troubling to comprehend that can even happen,” said Lisa Porter, a Cancer researcher who operates a lab in the faculty of biology. Samira Bashiri was one of her lab researchers who also doubled as the social media manager.
Porter says her life’s passion was finding the beauty in everything.
“I’d want people to know how important each of those people on the plane were, I want their families and friends to know that we’re not going to forget about them,” she said.
For Jill Urbanic, a professor in the field of mechanical engineering, the loss of Bashiri’s husband Hamidreza Setareh Kokab has also cut her to the core.
“I almost feel like a piece of my heart was ripped out,” Urbanic said. "He was a bright light. He had the world's gifts,” referring not only to his academic successes, but also his enriched and happy life.
“When you read about the lives and the contributions and the amazing people who were on this flight, gone, for nothing... that's where the anger comes in because he was one of several. And the reality is the sadness isn't going to go away for a long time."
Zahra Naghibi, a student in the faculty of engineering, was in the final stretch of defending her thesis and set to lead a project on in the greenhouse field, according to prof. Rupp Carriveau.
"We were extremely fond of these students,” he said. “You come to develop a relationship with these students and the challenging thing is in a way, you have a role that is like a parent. So when you lose people that are this close to you, it shakes you to the core."
Pedram Jadidi was part of an engineering research team. His PhD work was based around applying artificial intelligence to structural monitoring on cable-stayed bridges, like the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Prof. Carriveau can’t believe a year has passed since the tragedy in Ukraine but promises to keep the victims in his thoughts.
“The world lost a tremendous amount of potential with that airplane and they'll never be forgotten,” Carriveau said. “People will continue to remember them."
It’s a promise the University of Windsor is also making. The university established four memorial scholarships to honour the victims. It also placed a permanent memorial, featuring a tree, plaque and park benches along the riverfront.
“Our friends and colleagues who died will not be forgotten by their University of Windsor family,” he said, adding the memorial space “will serve as a tangible and permanent reminder of the lives they lived, their great and lasting impact on our community, and the unlimited potential that was lost to the world.”
The University has also contributed to a collection of videos dedicated to the victims.