Brampton: Six members of an Ontario family, including two teenage sisters, were among the 18 Canadians killed in a plane crash in Ethiopia.
The Peel District School Board said the girls, 14-year-old Ashka and 13-year-old Anushka Dixit, were travelling on the doomed Ethiopian Airlines jetliner with their parents and grandparents when it crashed moments after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday. All 157 people on board were killed.
“This tragedy has brought great sadness to the students and staff,” reads a letter sent to attendees of Ashka’s high school in Brampton, Ont. “Even students who did not personally know Ashka may be affected by this loss.”
Their 37-year-old mother Kosha Vaidya, 45-year-old father Prerit Dixit, 71-year-old grandfather Pannagesh Vaidya and 63-year-old grandmother Hansini Vaidya also died in the crash, said Kosha’s brother, Manant Vaidya.
“I miss them a lot,” he said. “I don’t really believe this has happened. I’m still in the shock phase.”
Vaidya said his parents were from Gujarat, India, but they lived in Kenya for three or four years and Kosha was born there. The family later returned to India, and Kosha moved to Ontario in 2004 after marrying her husband, who already lived in Canada, he said.
Their family vacation to Kenya was supposed to be her first visit to her birthplace in decades, and the teenage girls were excited to go on a safari there, said Manant.
“They wanted to see what was it is like to see all the animals on the ground, without any cages. It was really going to be a great experience for them,” he said.
The girls were both taking specialized science and technology courses and getting good grades, Manant said. The elder daughter, Ashka, had a beautiful singing voice while Anushka was talented in dance, learning a traditional Indian form called khattak, he said.
He said his brother-in-law worked as a medical lab assistant for LifeLabs and also held a job at Ontario’s Ministry of Health. His sister used to work for the Canadian Hearing Society, he said.
Across the country, tributes also poured in for the other 12 Canadians killed in the crash. They included humanitarians, environmentalists and aid workers who had dedicated their lives to making the world a better place.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres led the tributes by recognizing the impact of the crash on the international aid community, noting 21 UN employees from around the world were among the victims.
“A global tragedy has hit close to home and the United Nations is united in grief,” he said Monday. “(The victims) all had one thing in common a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all.”
One of those humanitarian workers killed in the crash was Jessica Hyba, an external relations officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who was based in Somalia at the time of her death.
Former coworkers sketched out a multi-decade career dedicated to the global good.
Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, first met Hyba as their careers were getting underway at CARE Canada in 2001.
Matthews said Hyba, an Ottawa native, arrived after completing her studies abroad looking to get involved in humanitarian or development work.
“She was a very energetic person, a very positive person who tried to make a difference for people affected by war and persecution,” Matthews said. “It’s a real sad story.”
CARE Canada said Hyba, who it described as a “dedicated humanitarian and loving mother,” worked both in Canada and Indonesia in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami crisis.
“This tragedy has struck the humanitarian community hard and our thoughts are with all of those who have lost friends and colleagues,” the group said in a statement. “We are reminded of the sacrifices humanitarian workers and their families have made through this work in an effort to save lives and help people overcome poverty.”
Similar praise was lavished on Danielle Moore, 24, of Winnipeg, who was en route to the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, at the time of the crash.
Moore, a marine biology student who had just been accepted into an education program, graduated from Dalhousie University in Halifax in 2017.
“Danielle was exceptional in every sense,” Moore’s thesis adviser Prof. Kim Davies said in an email. “She excelled at her studies, she was a kind and friendly person, and she was deeply devoted to environmental and human rights causes.”
Davies said after graduating from Dalhousie, Moore returned to Manitoba where she worked for several non-governmental organizations, including the Canada Learning Code, a group dedicated to improving the accessibility of educational and technological resources for Canadians.
Also among the victims was Peter deMarsh of New Brunswick, who was chairman of the International Family Forestry Alliance, an international group based in Luxembourg that represents more than 25 million forest owners worldwide.
Felix Montecuccoli, a board member with the alliance, said deMarsh had been en route to a conference on financing for small farms.
David Coon, leader of New Brunswick’s Green party, offered a tribute of his own to deMarsh on Twitter.
“Goodbye old friend,” Coon wrote while offering condolences to deMarsh’s wife and son. “You gave so much of your self in service to the common good.”
Micah Messent was also identified as one of the victims by friends in Facebook posts and his death was reported by media outlets based on information from the B.C. government and members of his family.
In an Instagram post, Messent said he was travelling to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and expressed his gratitude at being selected “to meet with other passionate youth and leaders from around the world and explore how we can tackle the biggest challenges that are facing our generation.”
The First Nations Leadership Council said Micah was a member of the Red River Metis Nation in Manitoba and was raised as the youngest of five siblings in the Comox Valley. He was a “well-liked” member of a 12-month Aboriginal Youth Internship Program who served his placement with BC Parks, it said in a statement.
The placement led to a full-time position in government with the BC Parks Indigenous relations team, which focuses on enhancing reconciliation within the agency and the broader natural resource sector, the statement said.
Micah, an avid sailor, was a graduate of the Indigenous studies program at the University of Victoria and had plans to return to school in the future to pursue a law degree, it added.
Monica Phung said both she and Messent took part in Ocean Bridge, a conservation program operated through Canadian Service Corps and Ocean Wise.
“Micah is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic, smartest, driven,” she said in an interview. “He is so accomplished.”
Jasveen Brar said she was a member of the 2018 Ocean Wise group with Messent and described him as “a true leader.”
“With my time with Micah, I learned a lot, skills such as chopping wood and the unique botany of the B.C. forests but also about life and his visions and ambitions,” she said.
Other Canadian victims of the crash included a mother and daughter from Edmonton, a renowned Carleton University professor, and an accountant with the City of Calgary.
Amina Ibrahim Odowaa of Edmonton, and her five-year-old daughter, Sofia Faisal Abdulkadir, were on the way to Kenya to visit with relatives when the plane crashed.
Carleton University confirmed Pius Adesanmi, a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature and the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University, was also among the victims. The school called him a “global thinker,” and a “towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship.”
Derick Lwugi, an accountant who worked for the City of Calgary, also died in the crash. He leaves behind his wife and three children, aged 17, 19 and 20.
By Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press