Texts, selfies, and fear of war: The heartbreaking final moments of Iran's plane crash victims

Texts, selfies, and fear of war: The heartbreaking final moments of Iran's plane crash victims
'I told her not to worry': PS752 passengers' final moments and messages paint a heartbreaking picture of the human cost of the regional chaos.
4 min read
10 January, 2020
Photos of the victims of Flight PS752 at a vigil in Toronto, Canada [Getty]
Since Wednesday's tragic Ukrainian International Airlines crash, the world has been mourning its 176 passengers amid the noise of allegations, investigations and theories of how and why the disaster happened.

Newlywed couples, promising students, young families and gifted scientists from across seven countries, the victims constitute the likely human cost of the regional turmoil stoked by the US, Iran and their allies.

Of the 176 people on board, 15 were children, many of whom were returning home from holidays.

According to the Iranian emergency operations, 147 of the victims were Iranian, indicating many of the victims were dual citizens of Iran and Canada, Sweden, Germany, Britain and Afghanistan.

Nine of the 11 Ukrainian nationals on board were crew members.

The passengers' last moments before their fateful journey paints a heartbreaking picture of how they lost their lives to regional chaos as conflict unfolded closer to home.

'Humanity has really lost a gem'

Immunologist Forough Khadem, 36, texted her colleague Jude Uzonna minutes before take off, saying she was "a bit worried" because of the mounting tensions between Iran and the US.

Uzonna, who studied for her PhD in Manitoba along with Khadem, paid tribute to her friend online.

"I can't believe that she's gone, she tweeted. "With her passing, humanity has really lost a gem."

Khadem, who discovered a treatment for the deadly parasitic disease leishmaniasis, is being mourned by Canada's scientific community.

The talented scientist had been visiting family in Iran over the holidays.

'Feeling scared'

Just minutes before take-off, passenger Sheyda Shadkoo texted her husband to reassure her everything would be ok after the morning's events.

A fearful flyer, Shadko's husband Hassan said she had been extremely anxious about a conflict after Iranian air strikes on US targets in Iraq just hours before.

"I talked to her 20 minutes before the plane took off and she wanted me to assure her that there wouldn't be a war," Hassan said. 

"I told her not to worry, and she said the crew was asking her to turn her phone off because the plane was about to take off".

Hassan told Canada's CBC News after the crash he was on his way to Tehran to retrieve her remains and be with her family.

"I wish I didn't exist now," he said.

'Work, I love you'

Social media was flooded with tributes to flight attendant Valeria Ovcharuk, 28, who posted regularly declaring her love for her job and travel opportunities.

Just two weeks before the disaster, she posted a photo of herself in Bangkok captioned: "Work, I love you".

Ukrainian media reported that Ovcharuk was born in the eastern Lugansk region, and graduated from the Aviation Institute and moved to the capital Kyiv in 2015.

'Taking off now'

In a heartbreaking capture of their last moments, PS752 passenger Sahar Haghjoo took a selfie with her daughter Elsa Jadidi as they prepared to fly home to Toronto.

The pair had been visiting family in Iran with Haghjoo's husband who had returned a week earlier for work.

Haghjoo's father said she had texted him telling him the flight had been delayed 30 minutes, she then texted him "taking off now," to which he replied "good".

"She was my sweetheart," Haghjoo's father told Global News Toronto.

Haghjoo worked in Toronto helping settle immigrant and refugee women, previously working as a TV show host in Iran.

'She planned to surprise her mum'

Masters student Nasim Rahmanifar was studying her first year in mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Friends have said she had been excited to go back to Iran for the holidays. 

"She was so excited to go back ... she planned to surprise her mom," her classmate Sina Esfandiarpour said at a news conference in Edmonton.

Rahmanifar's professor paid tribute to her as "an outstanding student."

'I can't use past tense'

Amirhosseini Ghasemi, 21, was a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Manitoba.

His friend Amir Shirzadi mourned his loss.

"I saw him before he left the country," he told Canadian media, saying they had played games together.

"I can't use past tense. I think he's coming back. We play again. We talk again. It's too difficult to use past tense, too difficult. No one can believe it."

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