School crash victim Jihad Darwiche farewelled at emotional service
The family of an eight-year-old boy killed when a car crashed into his Greenacre classroom this week say they have forgiven the driver charged over his death.
Jihad Darwiche and another eight-year-old boy – his best friend – were killed after a two-tonne Toyota Kluger crashed into their classroom at Banksia Road Public School on Tuesday morning.
The driver of the car was 52-year-old Maha Al-Shennag, a widowed mother-of-four.
In a video posted to Facebook on Thursday, Jihad’s father and Ahmad Hraichie spoke in a mixture of Arabic and English to deliver their message as they drove the hearse, with Jihad’s green coffin clearly visible behind them.
“[The family] want to sit with this lady and talk with her and tell her ‘we forgive you’,” Mr Hraichie said.
Mr Hraichie said in the future the family was eager to sit with Ms Al-Shennag and work out how to move forward.
“No retaliation is coming from the family of the boy, they have forgiven,” he said.
They said they did not condone any harassment of Ms Al-Shennag.
“People are coming and telling them what’s happening and that this lady’s being abused, they don’t want none of this to happen,” Mr Hraichie said.
“They are telling everyone out there: ‘forgive her, it’s an honest mistake, it could have happened to any one of us’.”
“We don’t throw the world down on our brothers and sisters when an accident happens,” he said.
“We have to forgive and not carry on with this behaviour, the family is urging you all please to stop this retaliation to her and to the school.”
Ms Al-Shennag allegedly told emergency services at the scene that she became distracted when a water bottle had fallen under her feet after she had driven into the school’s staff-only carpark to drop off a child.
Ms Al-Shennag was not injured in the incident. She was charged on Tuesday night with two counts of dangerous driving causing death.
Crash investigators laid more charges on Thursday, including dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and a back-up count of causing actual bodily harm by misconduct.
Three schoolgirls were also seriously injured in the incident.
Hours after police announced the fresh charges, hundreds of mourners gathered at Lakemba Mosque to farewell Jihad.
His green casket, draped in a black and gold cloth, was carried by a dozen pallbearers down the steps of the mosque as mourners spilled onto the street.
Many were in tears as the casket was loaded into a white hearse and, accompanied by a police escort, left for Rookwood Cemetery.
Jihad’s family has given Fairfax Media permission to identify him and publish his photograph.
The service was also attended by some students and parents.
A makeshift memorial outside the school gates has been growing, with students, parents and teachers leaving flowers, tributes and balloons.
Ms Al-Shennag, whose licence was suspended on Tuesday, has said through her lawyer that she was “deeply sorry for the loss and hurt suffered by the children, the school, the families and the community”.
She has been granted conditional bail and is scheduled to appear at Bankstown Local Court on November 29.