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'We've lost a great friend' after wave capsized canoe

Jul 11 2012

A canoe trip that ended in tragedy has left friends of a 20-year-old student in shock.

Saanich resident Iman Bulghani has been missing since a large wave capsized the canoe in which he and a friend were travelling Friday night. The two had set off from Telegraph Bay Cove with plans to camp on a nearby island.

"Obviously we've lost a great friend," said Josh Sutherland, who was a close friend and high school classmate of Bulghani, who is missing and presumed dead.

"You just try to take the positive and think about what he brought into your life."

Bulghani, who graduated from Lambrick Park Secondary School in 2010, was studying at the University of Victoria and aspired to be a lawyer, Sutherland said.

"He excelled in school," he said, adding that Bulghani was a friend to everyone. "If you had any problems, he would extend a hand."

After the canoe capsized, the two friends were forced to cling to a dry bag of supplies and call for help. People on shore alerted police, sparking an extensive search and rescue operation. The other canoeist was found and treated for hypothermia at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The 13-hour search for Bulghani - with efforts from Canadian and U.S. coast guards as well as local police and fire departments - was called off Saturday afternoon. Authorities turned the case over to Saanich Police as a missing persons file.

"It sounds like everything that could've gone wrong went wrong," said Bulghani's friend James Chana. The two canoeists weren't wearing life-jackets but did their best to stay together in the water.

Chana said he has been in touch with the canoeist who was rescued Friday night.

"He's obviously having trouble," he said. "His best bud isn't here."

Police reported that a canoe was found near Race Rocks at 4 p.m. on Monday but haven't confirmed that it's the one that capsized.

Chana played for the Gordon Head Gold U21 soccer team with Bulghani, whose talent didn't go unnoticed.

"He really loved soccer - he was very fast; he had amazing feet," Chana said, adding that Bulghani had a down-to-earth attitude. "All I can think of is good memories with him."

Described as a happy and even-tempered individual, Bulghani could play the santoor, an ancient Persian string instrument. He played in the Darya Ensemble, a local group that performs Persian classical music.

"He always did his own thing," Chana said. "He was just a really awesome guy."

High school friend Parker Johnson said Bulghani was "brilliant," an avid reader with an adventurous spirit.

"He was always working his mind and learning," Johnson said. "Because it was Iman, he had so many options."

Johnson said he'll miss the conversations he used to have with his friend.

"When he opened up to you, it was like a gift," he said. "That's how amazing conversations were with him. Every conversation was impactful."

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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