The eight young women, all good friends, were enjoying the flight home from their “girls’ getaway.” The group’s trip had been in celebration of Turkish heiress Mina Ba?aran, a bride-to-be, and there was much excitement over what may well have been the wedding of the season. Sadly, though, their joy was soon to be cut short.
Mina was a woman who had it all. She was young, beautiful, rich and popular. Her Instagram account boasted 65,000 followers, and Vogue Turkey magazine had featured her in its pages. On top of it all, she was due to marry on April 14, 2018, in what was set to be a lavish ceremony at Ç?ra?an Saray?, a luxury hotel in Istanbul.
Mina was one of two children, and the only daughter, of Turkish billionaire Hüseyin Ba?aran. Ba?aran’s vast business empire had begun with a hazelnut enterprise but expanded substantially from there. His current company, Ba?aran Investment Holding, is involved with aviation, tourism, energy and finance among many other sectors.
With a business administration degree from Turkey’s Koç University and a master’s from London under her belt, 28-year-old Mina worked for her father’s company. She sat on the board of managers and was reportedly being groomed to take over from Hüseyin one day. That was before tragedy struck.
Mina’s last days can at least be said to have been happy ones. She was on a hen trip ahead of her wedding to Murat Gezer, owner of Turkish printing company Metprint Baski Sistemleri. So, seven of the socialite’s closest female friends, most of them from the fashion industry, accompanied her.
The bachelorette party had been staying in the United Arab Emirates. In Dubai, they’d enjoyed a concert by pop singer Rita Ora. And the last photograph Mina posted to Instagram shows the group posing happily in their bathrobes at the One and Only Royal Mirage Luxury hotel.
Another, more poignant, Instagram photo shows Mina on the runway with the aircraft in which she would lose her life. In the picture, hashtagged “#bettertogether,” Mina wears a jacket with “Mrs. Bride” on it. Yet another photograph shows her sitting inside the plane with a bunch of flowers and heart-shaped balloons.
On board the ill-fated flight with Mina were her friends architect Zeynep Co?kun, psychologist Ay?e And, jewelry designers Asl? ?zmirli and Jasmin Siloni, fashion designers Burcu Gündo?ar Urfal? and Liana Hananel, and Sinem Akay, who also worked in fashion. Two of the women were pregnant, and like Mina, three others were recently engaged.
The flight’s pilots, Melike Kuvvet and Beril Gebe?, also perished. Kuvvet had been among the first women pilots in Turkey’s armed forces. Flight attendant Eda Uslu also lost her life aboard the Bombardier CL604 plane, which according to reports was owned by Mina’s father. The aircraft took off – for the last time – from the UAE’s Sharjah International Airport on Sunday, March 11, 2018. And events soon took a turn for the worse.
The plane was only in the air for about 70 minutes before it disappeared from radar at about 2:39 p.m. GMT (6:09 p.m. local time). According to Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, Iranian traffic control had granted the pilot permission to climb from 36,000 feet to 37,000 feet. Then shortly after that, it received a call from the aircraft reporting a “technical failure.”
The plane came down in Iran’s Zagros Mountains, near the city of Shahr-e Kord and about 230 miles south of Tehran. A witness told the local state-run television station that the aircraft had been on fire before it crashed, and photos posted to social media showed thick black smoke rising from the mountain range after the incident.
Villagers from the mountains were reportedly the first to reach the crash site, where they made the grisly discovery of charred bodies among the wreckage. There were no survivors. Immediately after the event, harsh weather prevented helicopters from landing in the area, although the Turkish military later sent a plane to recover the remains.
The bodies of the victims were so badly burned that DNA tests were required to identify them. In the meantime, a search promptly began for the “black box” – the piece of equipment that records the vital plane data then used in crash investigations. The box was found on Helen Mountain within the Zagros range.
Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, there was considerable mourning. The funerals of Mina Ba?aran and her friends Burcu Gündo?ar Urfal? and Sinem Akay were held on March 15, 2018, at a mosque in Istanbul. Mina’s fiancé, Murat Gezer, was one of the pallbearers of his fiance’s rose-covered casket. And according to the Turkish media, on being informed of his girlfriend’s death, Gezer had kept repeating, “I do not believe it. Mina will come.”
Mina’s father and an aunt were visibly distraught at the funeral. And the Ba?aran family, along with Gezer, published a death notice for their tragically departed loved one. Under her picture, Gezer had written, “My little angel, I love you very much. Wait for me.” Burcu Gündo?ar Urfal?’s husband was likewise inconsolable at his wife’s coffin. The couple had been expecting a baby.
On the same day in other parts of Istanbul, funerals were held for Liana Hananel and Jasmin Siloni, respectively. Hananel’s burial took place at Arnavutköy Jewish cemetery, and the well-known designer left behind a baby daughter. Meanwhile, Siloni, who had been pregnant, was interred at the Ulus Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery. Turkey’s chief rabbi, ?sak Haleva, was present at both funerals.
Also that day, funerals were held for Ay?e And and Asl? ?zmirli. The two women were high school friends and had both been planning weddings. ?zmirli’s fiance, Bassam Houssami, helped carry her casket. It was draped with a white scarf – the custom for women who have died while engaged to be married. And and ?zmirli were buried at the Zincirlikuyu cemetery in Istanbul.
In the Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul, a service was also held for the deceased air hostess Eda Uslu. And around the same time, Melike Kuvvet was taken to Konya, her home city, for burial. Her pilot’s uniform was placed on top of her coffin. Architect Zeynep Co?kun’s funeral was held later, on March 16, while the body of the pilot, Beril Gebe?, has at the time of writing not yet been recovered.
So far, although the black box has been retrieved, the exact cause of the crash is yet to be determined. On March 16, 2018, the Iranian Aviation authority said that some of the data was still inaccessible. Meanwhile, Canadian experts are said to be helping with the investigation, as the aircraft was manufactured in their country.
It seems that some questions are still to be answered. A statement issued by the Sharjah Civil Aviation authorities stated that the aircraft had not applied for maintenance at the airport before takeoff. However, the aviation firm has maintained that this would not have contributed to the crash. Specialists, meanwhile, have suggested that a change in cabin pressure, a blaze inside the craft or powerful turbulence as possible causes. For now, though, the investigations continue.