TORONTO, ONT – The worst had passed, it seemed, and the United States and Iran no longer appeared poised at the edge of war.
“All is well!” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday night, days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s most powerful general, and Iran, after a barrage of missiles, had signaled it was stepping back from further escalation.
But 27 seconds before Trump’s tweet, commercial flight trackers lost contact with a Ukrainian International Airlines jet that had just taken off from Tehran’s main airport. On board were 176 people, including at least 138 passengers on their way to Canada and at least 63 Canadian citizens. The plane appeared to get hit in the air, then slammed into the ground.
Everyone on board died. They were students, newlyweds, doctors and parents. The youngest was a 1-year-old girl, Kurdia Molani, who was flying back with her parents to their home in the Toronto suburb of Ajax.
By late Thursday, Western leaders said that Iran had most likely shot down the jetliner with a surface-to-air missile — probably by accident. The loss of so many civilian lives instantly recast the U.S.-Iran confrontation, which had seemed to conclude with only limited bloodshed.
What began with a drone attack on Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s motorcade at the Baghdad airport had rippled outward until dozens of Iranian-Canadians, and dozens of Iranian students studying in Canada, were dead.
“The community is overwhelmed with mourning and sadness,” said Payman Paseyan, a prominent Iranian-Canadian in western Canada. He lost many friends on the flight.
Some in Canada blamed Trump for the disaster.