A 23-year-old doctoral student at a California university, along with her sister and their mother were among 176 people killed when a Ukrainian jetliner was shot down by Iran, it has been revealed.
Sara Sabat, 23, who was enrolled at Alliant International University in San Diego, was visiting family in Iran with her sister and mom when their Boeing 737 went down minutes after take off from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday.
Her sister Saba, 21, and their mother, Shekoufeh Choupannejad, were from Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. More than 60 Canadians died in the crash.
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Saba Sabat (left) and sister Sara (right) were ‘best friends’. They were among 176 people killed when a Ukrainian jetliner was shot down by Iran
Mom Shekoufeh Choupannejad was a gynecologist and obstetrician in her 50s
Iran claimed that a missile operator opened fire on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 because his communications jammed, and he thought he had only seconds to take out an incoming cruise missile, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said.
Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, said on Saturday the operator mistakened the Ukrainian jetliner for a US cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, which is why he made the split second decision on whether or not to open fire.
‘I wish I had died, and I wouldn’t have seen such an incident,’ Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a ‘request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.’
For days, Iran vehemently denied that it was responsible for downing the passenger plane, and accused the US of spreading malicious propaganda and lies for suggesting such a scenario.
Hajizadeh claimed that the country’s top military leaders were not initially aware that their own air defense system had shot the plane down, leading to confusion.
Now the country has come clean, but still blames ‘US adventurism’ for the fatal ‘error’.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani still extended condolences to the families of those killed in the incident, and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted.
Rescue workers search the scene where the Ukrainian plane crashed after takeoff from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday
Saba’s long-time boyfriend remembered her and Sara as ‘best friends’.
Daniel Ghods-Esfahani told the CBC in Edmonton that he was comforted they died with their mom, who was an obstetrician and gynecologist in her 50s.
‘Given the tragedy of the situation, I take some comfort from the fact that, in that last moment, the three of them were together,’ he told the news outlet.
Sara was about to start a clinical psychology program at Alliant, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The school in San Diego’s Scripps Ranch section was just finishing up its winter break this week when word came of her death.
The news sent shock waves through out the campus, reports the Tribune.
Sara Sabat, 23, was visiting family in Iran with her sister and mom when their Boeing 737 went down minutes after take off
Saba, 21, (pictured) was from Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. More than 60 Canadians died in the crash
‘We extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of Sara Saadat,’ Alliant said in a statement issued Friday.
‘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 faculty at Alliant was so stricken with grief, none were available to comment.
The school is expected to hold a memorial service for Sara, who was in her first year.
Her younger sister was an undergraduate in her last year at Alberta University. She was planning to go to medical school.
Her boyfriend said the family moved from Iran to Canada seven years ago. The family eventually moved to Edmonton. An older brother now lives in Toronto, Ghods-Esfahani said. Their father is in Iran.
He met Saba three years ago through mutual friends.
‘I’ve never seen a bond between siblings or friends as close as they had,’ Ghods-Esfahani said, referring to her and Sara.
Daniel Ghods-Esfahani, Saba’s long-time boyfriend (pictured) said the family moved from Iran to Canada seven years ago
The sisters were passionate about helping immigrants and people in the LGBTQ community he told the CBC.
He said he hopes to continue their legacy.
‘In light of what has happened, it is my passion to pursue everything that she [Saba] was passionate about,’ he said.
‘Part of that is incorporating everything that she cared about, everything that she stood for and everything that she wanted to accomplish in her life, and be able to honor that on her behalf.’