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Dr. Parisa Eghbalian and daughter, tragically killed in Tehran plane crash, remembered by community

January 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Written By BROCK WEIR

They were beautiful inside and out.

That is how Dr. Parisa Eghbalian and her daughter, Reera Esmaeilion, are being remembered by the people left behind after losing their lives in a Tehran plane crash early last Wednesday (Jan. 8) morning that killed 176 people.

Dr. Eghbalian, who was born and raised in Iran, was co-owner of Aurora E&E Dentistry on Wellington Street East with her husband, Dr. Hamed Esmaeilion. Having moved to Canada in 2010, the family had strong roots in Aurora, Richmond Hill and Caledon, opening up their Aurora practice in 2017 with the philosophy of “respect, caring and listening” being central to their approach.

Dr. Parisa and Reera are understood to have returned to Iran over the holidays to attend a family wedding and were due to return to Canada – and be welcomed home by Dr. Hamed – after transferring to a connecting flight from the fatal Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which left Tehran on January 8.

It crashed shortly after take-off, leaving victims’ families – and international governments – searching for answers.

Amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran in the first week of 2020, the potential for a conflict in the Region was being watched closely by, among others, including Manijeh Ghotbi, the Office Administrator at Aurora E&E Dentistry.

Ms. Ghotbi tells The Auroran she was closely monitoring the situation on the evening of January 7, checking in with Dr. Hamed just before she went to bed around 10.15 p.m., to make sure Dr. Parisa and Reera had safely left the country. Dr. Hamed, she recalls, told her they had just boarded the flight 45 minutes before and was told before take-off that everything was okay.

“In the morning, I woke up and turned on the TV to see what happened to see if war was going to start and I saw the news that the Ukrainian airplane had crashed,” says Ms. Ghotbi. “I knew they were in a Ukrainian airplane and I didn’t even want to think about it. It sounds terrible, but I was hoping it was another Ukrainian plane and not theirs. I called Dr. Hamed to see what was going on and he didn’t answer – and then I thought something was happening.”

Looking for answers, she came into the Aurora office to gather contact information of the family’s friends. It was there, she heard back from Dr. Hamed that something tragic had happened.

“He was crying, devastated,” she says, noting he shortly thereafter began making preparations to return to Iran to identify the remains of his wife and daughter. 

As news began to break, Aurora E&E Dentistry was inundated with calls of condolence, as well as patients and friends delivering flowers, candles and other mementos, adding “Dr. Hamed so appreciates everyone who was beside us through the week.”

“[Dr. Parisa] was the most wonderful person I have ever met,” says Ms. Ghotbi, who knew the dentist for three years as an employee. “She had a very big smile, was funny, happy and full of energy, and she always made you smile. She was very wonderful, very pretty and beautiful inside and out. She was very nice with patients, helping them and making them very comfortable. Whoever came here to the office, they wouldn’t think it was a dental practice, but a second home.

“Reera was so cute, funny, pretty, and nice. She was very talented, bright and smart. She spoke three languages – Farsi, English and French – fluently with her reading and writing. She came here some of the days after school and she was very friendly with the little kids here when they came into the office. She could make a connection to anybody very easily. She was so friendly with the biggest smile, big beautiful green eyes. It is hard to even talk about them like this. It is hard not having them around anymore.”

Outside of the dental practice, the family was remembered in other parts of the community, including over at the Aurora Public Library, where the couple donated books for Farsi-speaking readers.

“Our deepest condolences to the Iranian community who lost their loved ones on Flight 752 en-route from Tehran,” said the Library, posting to social media a photo of Dr. Parisa with an array of books she and Dr. Hamed had donated for the Farsi community. “Dr. Parisa Eghbalian and their daughter, Reera, will be missed by our Library community.”

As municipal flags were lowered across the community, Mayor Tom Mrakas also offered his condolences.

“I am deeply saddened to hear about the plane crash in Tehran that claimed the lives of all 176 passengers and crew on board, including 63 Canadians,” said Mayor Mrakas in a statement. “Our condolences and prayers are extended to the families of the victims and the local Iranian community. We grieve with you. I am also heartbroken to hear that Aurora dentist Dr. Parisa Eghbalian and her daughter were two of those killed in the crash. This is beyond comprehension for many in our community and our thoughts are with Dr. Eghbalian’s family.”

The lives of the victims of Flight 752 were remembered in a vigil hosted in Oak Ridges at the Dr. Bette Stephenson Centre for Learning by the York Region District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board, the York Regional Police and the City of Richmond Hill. 

Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson had a moment of silence during council on Jan 14 to mourn the passing of Dr. Parisa and Reera, and all the other Canadians who lost their lives during the plane crash. The Caledon community has joined together to grieve and support those who need it during this difficult time. 

Mayor Thompson shared in a tweet, “Caledon stands with all Canadians in grief and sadness at the lives lost in Iran on Wednesday. In memory of those who died and the tremendous impact to their families and friends, all flags at Town of Caledon municipal facilities have been lowered to half-mast until sunset on the 12th.”

MPP Sylvia Jones also shared her sentiments on social media, grieving with the rest of Canada. “Along with all Canadians, my heart is with the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives on the #TehranPlaneCrash, including the many hardworking students, innocent children, and loving parents who called Ontario home.”



         

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