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Five Quebec families in mourning, worst fears confirmed in Air Algérie crash

Wilfried Somda was on the Air Algérie flight that crashed in Mali.


For five Quebec families, Air Algérie Flight AH5017 was supposed to be an interlude in a summer of happy moments.

Two brothers had left their Montreal suburb, returning to their native Burkina Faso to attend their parents' 50th wedding anniversary. A friend from Sherbrooke joined them, her first time on a plane.

Elsewhere, in two separate towns in Quebec, two Burkinabe men were hoping to be reunited with their wives and sons to start a new life in Canada.

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In Quebec City, a young man awaited a visit from his mother, who was to meet a grandchild for the first time.

Now the five families are in mourning, their worst fears confirmed after French troops reached a wreckage site in eastern Mali and said there were no survivors from the plane crash.

Twelve passengers from the flight were en route to Montreal. Of the 12, five were Canadian citizens, six were on the path to immigrating to the country, and one woman was visiting family in Quebec, according to the Burkinabe Association of Greater Montreal.

"My parents are completely crushed by this. They don't know what to hang on to," Sylviane Somda said in a phone interview from the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou.

Two of her four brothers, Winmalo and Wilfried, were on the flight. Winmalo's wife, Angélique, and their two children, eight-year-old Nathanaël, and five-year-old Arielle, were also on board.

Wilfried's wife, Rita Sanhouidi, did not travel with them because she is pregnant with their second child.

The two brothers lived in Longueuil, south of Montreal. They were on their way home after returning to Ouagadougou for a large family gathering celebrating their parents' wedding anniversary.

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Winmalo had Canadian citizenship and, after studying industrial engineering, was working for a mining firm.

"It's really sad, he was one of the warmest, nicest students I had. Always smiling, never angry," said Eduardo Vellasques, who was a lab assistant at the École de technologie supérieure technical school.

Wilfried did not have Canadian citizenship but had studied marketing and was hoping to settle permanently in Quebec, Ms. Somda said.

Also travelling with them was a friend, Isabelle Prévost, a 35-year-old mother of three from Sherbrooke.

Her spouse, Dany Frappier, told the TVA network that the 10-day trip to Burkina Faso was a holiday she had planned for a long time.

"It was the first time she was flying, the first time she was leaving the country," Mr. Frappier said.

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The couple's three children are five, seven and nine years old.

Mr. Frappier said Ms. Prévost called Wednesday just before boarding her flight to speak with her children and report that the trip had gone smoothly. She also told Mr. Frappier's mother that she was bringing home a lot of beautiful photos.

Martine Sandwidi Bikyenga, the mother of Moïse Sandwidi, a Quebec City computer analyst who works for the provincial government, also died in the crash, according to the Burkinabe association. She was on her way to visit a two grandsons, including one born in May she'd never met.

North of Quebec City, in the Saguenay region, Bassirou Yameogo, a teacher in Jonquière, Que., said his wife and 13-year-old son were also among the passengers who were en route to Montreal.

Mr. Yameogo said he waited more than two years for the chance to bring his wife, Kadidia Koanda, and teenage son Aboubacar to Canada.

At the other end of the province, in Gatineau, near Ottawa, the tragedy also struck Mamadou Zoungrana, a nurse's assistant at a local hospital.

Mr. Zoungrana, who is originally from Burkina Faso, has permanent residency status and had been planning for two years to bring his wife and two young children to Canada.

He told Radio-Canada that he spoke with his wife before her departure and she said "the children are sitting with me" in the plane.

"I wished this was a dream," he said, "but when I look around, it's reality. I am not in a dream."

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About the Authors
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More


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