UVic student killed in Iran plane crash

Campus National News World

Roja Omidbakhsh was a first year student at the Gustavson School of Business

File photo by Belle White

One student did not return to UVic after winter break. UVic student Roja Omidbakhsh was killed in the Ukraine International Airlines plane crash in Iran on Jan. 8. Omidbakhsh was a first year student in the Gustavson School of Business, registered in what would have been her second semester at UVic.

“The University of Victoria expresses its sympathy to all of the families and friends of those who perished in the crash,” UVic President Jamie Cassels said, in a media release. “It is always a profound loss for the entire community when we lose someone, and our hearts and thoughts go out to Roja’s loved ones. UVic extends its deepest condolences as we join in mourning her loss.”

The university will be lowering its flag to half-staff today, in remembrance of Omidbakhsh.

The crash is one of the worst air-based tragedies involving Canadians. All of the 176 people aboard the plane died in the crash. Of the passengers, 63 were Canadians and 138 had connections to Canada. 

The crash follows from an escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran earlier this week, after the U.S. killed Iranian general  Qasem Soleimani. Since  then, Iran has fired two missiles at U.S. bases in northern Iraq. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Canadian troops were at the bases in Iraq, but none were killed. 

Initial reports from Iran indicated the crash was due to a mechanical error, but unnamed U.S. officials now speculate the crash was likely caused by an Iranian missile.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave an update on the situation on Thursday. Trudeau confirmed that, to his knowledge, the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile. However, Trudeau was hesitant to connect the plane crash to the actions of the U.S. against Iran. 

Ministers from Iran told the Globe and Mail that it is “impossible” this incident was due to anything but a technical error.

The plane was a Boeing 737 model that underwent regular scheduled maintenance just two days before the flight. 

Moments after taking off from the airport in Tehran, radio contact with the plane was lost. Canada has requested access to investigate the plane crash site. 

Laurel Collins, the federal MP for Victoria, tweeted her condolences.

 “What a tragic event. And, it’s made worse by the unfolding conflict, as loved ones will likely have to wait for answers to what happened,” Collins said. “My heart goes out to the family and friends of all those lost.”

A march is scheduled on Sunday at the B.C. Legislature by Victoria’s Young Communist League, calling for peace and denouncing any U.S. war with Iran. 
UVic is encouraging students who knew Omidbakhsh or are otherwise affected by the event to visit Counselling Services — they can be reached at 250-721-8341. Multifaith services will also be available for support.

This article was updated on Jan. 9 at 12:55 p.m. to include new information regarding Trudeau’s statements on Iran’s involvement in the crash.