Humanitarians and aid workers among Canadians killed in Ethiopian plan crash
Laura Kane and Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 11, 2019 10:13AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 11, 2019 9:44PM EDT
Six members of an Ontario family, spanning three generations, are being remembered as wonderful, loving people after they were identified as being among those who were killed in a devastating plane crash in Ethiopia that claimed the lives of 18 Canadians.
The family from Brampton, including 13-year-old Anushka Dixit and her 14-year-old sister Ashka, were travelling on the doomed Ethiopian jetliner when it crashed moments after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, a relative said.
The girls and their mother, 37-year-old Kosha Vaidya, father 45-year-old Prerit Dixit, and grandparents 71-year-old Pannagesh Vaidya and 63-year-old Hansini Vaidya, were on their way to Kenya for a safari, said Manant Vaidya, Kosha's brother.
"I miss them a lot," said Manant, adding he and his wife and kids got together every weekend with his sister's family.
"I don't really believe this has happened. I'm still in the shock phase."
Manant said his parents were from Gujarat, India, but they lived in Kenya for several 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 safari, 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 strong students who excelled in science and technology courses, 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.
Manant said a friend of his father who lives in Nairobi phoned to tell of him of his family's deaths.
"This was the most lovable family," he said at his home, sitting next to his wife with a photo of the family nearby. "I hope that they're always going to be remembered in (our) hearts ... even though they are not here."
The Peel District School Board issued a letter to attendees of Ashka's high school, saying the tragedy has brought "great sadness" to students and staff.
"Even students who did not personally know Ashka may be affected by this loss."
Across the country, tributes poured in for the other Canadians killed in the crash that claimed the lives of all 157 people on board. 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 recognized 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 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," Prof. Kim Davies, Moore's thesis adviser, 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.
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, was also among those who died. 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, died in the crash. He leaves behind his wife and three children, aged 17, 19 and 20.
Parvati.org, a not-for-profit conservation group, said former Edmonton resident Darcy Belanger -- a founding member and its director of strategic initiatives -- was travelling to the environment assembly when the plane crashed.
PCL Construction said Belanger was its director of U.S. professional development and his LinkedIn profile says he was based in Denver. The company says he was on a personal trip to the assembly as an advocate for the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary through his work with Parvati.
The conservation group says he was working to make the Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle a protected area to maintain global weather patterns.
"At one point in our decade-long friendship, Darcy told me he was willing to give his life for MAPS. And so, he literally did," says Parvati.org founder Parvati. "He embodied the heart of a true peaceful warrior. May we each be inspired by his example of selfless leadership, compassion in action, and willingness to serve the greater good."
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 travelling 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 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 environment assembly 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 Messent was a member of the Red River Metis Nation in Manitoba and was raised as the youngest of five siblings in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. 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.
Messent, an avid sailor, had plans to return to school in the future to pursue a law degree, it added.
Laurie Meijer Drees, one of Messent's professors at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, said he was regarded as a trailblazer among his classmates and faculty at the school.
"He was a bright light among all of those bright lights," she said, adding he was part of a group of about a dozen Indigenous studies students who were looking to make the world a better place.
"What was remarkable about him was his commitment to trying to do something creative and positive and especially now when we're talking about reconciliation," she said. "Five, six years ago that wasn't such a hip term as it is now, but that's what he was all about. He wanted people to understand who the Metis were, what it's like to be an Indigenous person. In a positive way."
Ocean Wise said Messent and Moore were part of its Ocean Bridge program, which "empowers Canadian youth to make a difference towards ocean conservation."
The pair were selected to join a Canadian youth delegation to the United Nations environmental assembly, it said.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Micah and Danielle," it said in a statement. "All members of our youth community will be provided with counselling and support."
The Canadian Wildlife Federation says Angela Rehhorn was on her way to participate in the environmental assembly when the plane went down.
The federation says Rehhorn, 24, a recent graduate of Dalhousie University from Orillia, Ont., participated in its Canadian Conservation Corps, a volunteer program for Canadians ages 18 to 30.
Stephanie Lacroix's mother, Sylvie Lamarche Lacroix, confirmed from her home in Timmins, Ont., that her daughter died in the crash.
Stephanie Lacroix's LinkedIn profile says she was working with the United Nations Association in Canada. It says she graduated in 2015 with an honours degree in International Development and Globalization from the University of Ottawa.
Kate White, president of The United Nations Association in Canada, said four of the victims were part of the organization.
"This is a profound loss," she said in a statement.
Patty Hajdu, the minister of employment, workforce development and labour, said their deaths will be felt by the country.
"These bright, young Canadians were an inspiration: compassionate leaders, dedicated to the conviction that they could build a better future for our country," she said.
Canadian Wildlife Federation CEO Rick Bates said: "These young Canadians shared the excitement and optimism of working to improve our world. Their lives are an inspiration to us all."