Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed the wrong day of the crash.
Two promising young auto researchers in Canada were among the passengers killed when a Ukrainian International Airlines flight crashed minutes after takeoff in Iran early Wednesday.
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., has confirmed Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian were both PhD students in the school’s faculty of engineering. They focused on automotive research.
Aghabali was researching the design and control of power electronics converters in hybrid electric vehicles applications.
Eshaghian’s research interests included autonomous vehicles, robotics, and control systems in general.
Aghabali received his bachelor of science in electrical engineering, electronics and a Masters science degree from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. In 2017 he joined McMaster University as a PhD student.
Eshaghian also graduated from Sharif University of Technology, doing so with bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. In September 2018, he joined the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) to pursue his Masters at McMaster University in Mechanical Engineering.
“McMaster is a tightly knit community and there will be many faculty, staff, colleagues, friends and fellow students who need our support and caring at this tragic time,” McMaster President David Farrar said in a statement.
According to the university’s website, both studied under the supervision of Prof. Ali Emadi, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
The McMaster Iranian Student Association described the pair as “bright students.” The association is working with McMaster to host a memorial service to honour the pair.
"We would like to express our deepest condolences to friends and family members of the two McMaster students who died during the airplane crash last night, Mehdi Eshaghian and Iman Aghabali,” the association said in a statement to Automotive News Canada. “We are still in shock by the tragic news from last night.
“Mehdi and Iman were two kind souls who always celebrated Iranian traditions with our community.
“It is devastating for the entire McMaster community to hear the painful passing of young students who left behind their families and motherland in hopes of a better future career.
“We will always cherish their memories. May they rest in peace."
It is unclear what caused the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines flight, which was bound for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and went down shortly after taking off from Tehran. All 176 people on board were killed. Conflicting theories of the cause were circulating on Wednesday.
The crash happened amid intensifying tensions between the United States and Iran, which on Tuesday attacked two bases in Iraq that house United States troops.
Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, said the victims included 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians, including nine Ukrainian crew members. Sixty-three passengers were from Canada, 10 from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Germany and three from Britain, he said.
The crash represents one of the worst losses of Canadian life in an aviation disaster. In 1985, a bomb exploded and killed 329 people aboard an Air India flight, mostly Canadians of Indian ancestry.