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Families of victims still searching for answers six months after Iran plane crash (toronto.ctvnews.ca)

TORONTO —
Families, who lost loved ones when the Iranian military shot down a passenger plane six months ago, say they are frustrated at the lack of answers and believe the global pandemic should not be an excuse to slow the investigation.

“This is 161 days now passing and when you have no answers of what happened it makes it more difficult for you,” Dr. Hamed Esmaeilion, a dentist in Aurora, Ont., said. “Everybody has gone through the pandemic and self-isolation, but I’m still struggling with that happened to us.”

Esmaeilion lost his wife Parisa Eghbalian and his nine-year-old daughter Reera Esmaeilion when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed. He said the past six months have been a nightmare. 

“When you think about that three minutes, that six minutes, that they were up in the sky probably seeing the missiles coming toward them, its horrific,” he said. 

“I don’t know how we keep going, but just this long nightmare won’t end if we don’t have the answers.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to keep fighting for answers on the downing of the flight, but families told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday there’s been little change. 

Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada were among the 176 people killed when Flight PS752 was shot down by two Iranian missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Jan. 8. Britain, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Sweden also lost citizens.

Iran initially denied responsibility before admitting its role in the crash. Families have accused the state of stalling international efforts to find answers for how and why the plane was shot down.

Canada and others have been calling for the black box flight recorders to be turned over for analysis, but Tehran has so far refused. Canada is now pushing Iran to hand the boxes over to France, but Trudeau said Iran was blaming COVID-19 for not delivering them yet.

“I think the COVID-19 can’t be a permanent position here because this should have been done in February and January,” Esmaeilion told CTV News Toronto. “They want to hide something and the best thing for them is to buy some time.”

Iranian plane crash

Esmaeilion said looking into the black box should have been the first step, and, beyond the box, there are a lot more steps in the investigation. 

“I just want to remind everyone that the black box is not the whole story,” he said. “There are more important things than that black box. Yes, that black box should be delivered, but most of the questions, they can’t be answered just by the black box. Some questions need to be asked in an international court of justice.”

Azamat Azhdari, who lost her sister in the plane crash, says she too is frustrated by the lack of answers so far and believes the black box investigation should have been done a long time ago.

“We just want to know the truth and clear what happened that night,” she told CTV News Toronto.

“I think the first step in the investigation is reading the black box … Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they had enough time to send the black box.”

She described her sister, Ghanimat Azhdari, a University of Guelph PhD student, as an environmental activist who loved nature.

Azhdari Ghanimat (Source: ICAA Consortium)

“It’s a hard time, a really hard time. I can’t tell you how hard and difficult it is,” she said. “I miss her smile, I miss her voice. I miss her laughs, I miss everything of hers.”

“She didn’t deserve that to die in that plane, not her and not the other passengers, 176 other passengers … The only thing left for us is the hope, that’s it, the hope to know what was the truth.”

–WIth files from the Canadian Press

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