Vigil honours 3 young Indian men killed in NB car crash

Standing in front of large pictures of three men, flanked by flowers, some students put their heads down and began to chant.

They chanted Shri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram, a mantra or prayer asking for peace for the three Indian NBCC Saint John students who died in a Labour Day car crash near Moncton.

The college organized a candlelight vigil for the three men on Thursday evening. Students from the St. Andrews, Fredericton and Moncton campuses came in yellow school buses to attend. Around 125 people walked from the top of the campus to the bottom, carrying decorative paper bags with electric tea lights inside. Once they reached the bottom of the campus they placed the bags under the photos of the three men, displayed on easels. 

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

Indo-Canadian Society of Saint John president Amit Tamrakar said although what happened was a tragedy, the vigil is a time to come together.

"It shows a lot of support for the community and also for the students," said Tamrakar. "It brings them together and it's very important. There's lots of people from the community, outside the college, that have come in here, which is a good feeling - that we belong."

Two men aged 24 years old and a third aged 29, were all ejected from rear seats when the vehicle left Highway 2 east near the Shediac Road exit around 5:45 p.m. The Subaru Outback rolled and landed in the median, RCMP have said.

Manisha Varma, president of the Association of Indo-Canadians of Fredericton, previously told CBC the eldest victim had recently learned that his wife is pregnant. She said he was planning to leave NBCC and return to India.

Police believe speed might have been a factor. The 28-year-old driver could face three counts of dangerous driving causing death when he appears in Moncton provincial court on Dec. 13.

No identity

The families of the deceased men have instructed friends in Saint John to not share the names of the three men, said Heather Allaby, spokesperson for NBCC.

"We wanted to really respect that, we didn't feel it was our place to name the students," she said. "Those affected, they know who who they are ... but we just didn't feel it was our place to be the ones to publicly identify accident victims who had not previously been identified."

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

Allaby said it's been a difficult time for the community, especially the international student community.

"This is their home away from home, this is their family," she said. "So the bonds are really tight. 

She said facing a tragedy like this has been "a lot to absorb."

"Certainly given the distance and being far from your home country is another element and we really wanted to create a space where the students could come together and feel supported by their sort of adopted family as as international students."

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

She said NBCC has been providing counselling services to students in their own language, as well as to staff.

NBCC Saint John has 750 new and returning international students from 49 countries, making one in four students who were not born in Canada.

After walking down to the photographs and placing the paper bags, NBCC president and CEO Mary Butler gave a short speech. 

She said they knew this was going to be difficult on the students who sat together through classes over last year and will sit together this year.

"But you've shown significant courage and determination," Butler told the students and staff. "I hope you carry that throughout the rest of the year, so take care of each other, honour these young men, and we'll see you at graduation."