Anouluck ‘Jeffrey’ Chanminaraj, the 13-year-old Red Deer boy who was killed in a collision on July 1, is being remembered as a thoughtful, tender-hearted, kind and quiet youngster.
“I look at his picture, and I still can’t believe this is happening,” said Jeffrey’s uncle Van Chanminaraj, adding his nephew’s good nature always shone through to those who knew him. “He’s so alive in those pictures. To me, this is like a nightmare that I just want to wake up from but I can’t. He was a good boy. He’s not like a nephew, he was like a son to me.
“Every time I look at him,” he adds, his voice trailing off. He describes a recent family dinner when he was teasing his nephew about how fast he was growing and how tall he was getting.
“I said for a 13-year-old boy, you’re going to be taller than your uncle in a few more months. Then I would get this smile. He took his ribs, food and sticky rice, smiled at me and walked away. That was the last time I saw him.”
“To me, he was an outstanding kid,” he added. “He liked to make other people feel happy, and he never picked on other people. He was very kind. Losing someone like that is so hard.
“It takes a toll on every family member.”
Jeffrey’s cousin, Sam, agrees. She also describes Jeffrey as always having a heart for those who didn’t seem to have an abundance of friends or acquaintances.
“He grew up really shy, but as he was growing up he started being more open and comfortable with who he was,” she said. His love of guitar was also flourishing.
Sam, 18, smiles as she describes her late cousin’s aim to be a musician. But it was his kindness that his family continually pointed to.
“If someone was left out, he was the one to say ‘I’m going to help them out, because they are alone’. If he saw someone who was alone, he would go and be with them.”
Rodney Arens, 32, of Red Deer has been charged with impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, three charges of refusing to provide a breathalyzer sample and breach of recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in Red Deer provincial court on July 23.
Police said Jeffrey was riding in a Honda Civic with his 18-year-old brother Jamie and 20-year-old sister Stephanie, who was driving, at about 11 p.m. on Canada Day when a Dodge Ram pick-up truck crashed into the passenger side of the car.
Their car was turning left through the intersection of Tayor Drive and Kerry Wood Drive when it was allegedly struck by a drunk driver operating the pick-up truck. The siblings were on their way to see the Canada Day fireworks.
Jeffrey was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jamie suffered critical injuries and was flown to a Calgary hospital by STARS air ambulance. Sam said he’s still there recovering, while Stephanie is now at home.
Van, 43, said he’s doing his best to comfort his surviving niece and nephew, he said. “It’s really tough on all of us. It’s shocking, and like I said, this is like a really bad nightmare that I just want to wake up from. It’s really hard.
“He had a whole life ahead of him. For something like this to happen, I’m mad, I’m angry and I’m frustrated.”
Funeral services for Jeffrey are planned for this Saturday at the Parkland Funeral Home and Crematorium, starting at 1 p.m.
Sam encouraged the community to attend and also to continue to drop off letters and mementos at the site of the collision.
Aleta Neville can sadly relate to the horrendous pain of what Jeffrey’s family is going through.
The newly-appointed president of the local chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) lost her son Brent to an impaired driver in March of 2006. He was 21.
“It just makes you sick to your stomach, because we know only too well what the family is going through right now – the numbness, the shock, the turmoil and the heartache,” she said of the news of another life lost to an alleged drunk driver. “Their lives are changed forever.
“It brings everything right back,” she added of her own devastating experience of losing a child. “On behalf of MADD, we send our thoughts to the family – there is no greater pain than losing a child.
“It also has such a ripple effect. It affects the whole community.”
Neville said MADD’s mission includes comforting families in such a crisis as this along with educating the public about the dangers of drinking and driving. It’s an ongoing battle, she said.
“We keep asking people to arrange for a safe ride home – don’t get behind the wheel.”
In her family’s experience, the services of MADD really helped during the bleak, agonizing period after her son’s death. “They were the life raft that kept us from drowning.”
It’s also vital for families enduring such a loss to draw strength from each other and a circle of close friends. “It’s about holding onto each other,” she said. “The pain gets softer, but the tears still flow everyday.”
For the Chanminaraj family, knowing there is community support is meaningful as they embark on their journeys of grief.
Sam is very grateful for the notes of condolence left at the memorial near the site of the collision. She is also determined to make sure her young cousin didn’t die in vain.
“I don’t want people to forget about this, and I’m doing as much as I can to prevent that,” she said, pondering the mementos, letters and the photo of Jeffrey at the memorial.
“By setting up this memorial, it shows people this is a spot where a person lost their life. It’s not just a regular intersection. He lost his life.”
For more information about MADD, call 403-347-9922 or visit www.madd.ca/reddeer.