A newlywed couple were among the 176 passengers who perished in the Ukranian plane crash last week.
San Diego resident Pantea Khodami is remembering her cousin, Arash Pourzarabi, 26, who tied the knot with Pouneh Gorji in Iran on New Year’s Day. The young newlyweds — and some members of their wedding party — were traveling back home to Canada when the the Boeing 737 jet was shot down.
“My aunt (Pourzarabi’s mother) was sending us pictures that day of (the wedding) because we couldn’t be there and it was also really emotional not being able to be there,” Khodami told NBC 7 San Diego, explaining that the ceremony had been held in Iran, but Pourzarabi and Gorji were planning to hold a second ceremony in North America.
“We were just very looking forward for them to come back, so we could see them newlywed couple, and celebrate with them,” Khodami said.
Pourzarabi and Gorji were both working on masters degrees at the University of Alberta in Canada. Pourzarabi was studying artificial intelligence, while Gorji was studying liver disease with ultrasound technology, Khodami told the outlet, adding that her cousin was planning on publishing a paper on his studies upon his return from Iran.
“It just breaks my heart that he won’t be able to do this,” she said. “He won’t get to go on his honeymoon.”
Pourzarabi is being remembered as a young man full of potential.
“He was always super passionate about human health, having an impact on people and life,” Khodami said. “When I zoom in and look at myself, I am so sad that I lost my cousin but when I zoom out, I am so sad that we lost someone with his heart, with his caliber.”
“He just had so much to offer, not just personally, but to the world.”
Pourzarabi and Gorji were not the only members of the University of Alberta community to perish in the crash, which Iran said three days later was shot down accidentally by “human error,” The New York Times reported.
Sisters Sara and Saba Saadat, as well as their mother Shekoufeh, were also aboard the flight. Sara was a graduate of the university, and was working toward a doctorate degree at San Diego’s Alliant International University, while Saba was a current student.
“As I have seen personally in visits across campus, these individuals were integral to the intellectual and social fabric of our university and the broader community,” San Diego’s Alliant International University President David H. Turpin said in a statement after the crash. “We are grieving for lost colleagues, classmates, teachers, and mentors, as well as loved ones, family, friends, and roommates.”
Alliant International University also released a statement confirming Sara’s death.
“It appears that Sara was visiting family in Iran and was on her way back to San Diego to begin our spring 2020 term in our PsyD in Clinical Psychology program,” the Scripps Ranch, California school said in a statement on Facebook after the crash.
“We know that the entire Alliant community is affected when tragedy strikes any one of us, and we are here to provide support during these trying times,” the statement continued, adding that the school was providing “on-site critical support counselors” for students.