Edmonton boy orphaned by B.C. crash

An 11-year-old Edmonton boy is the sole surviving member of a family after a crash killed six people on the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, B.C.
Arshad Mahmood, centre, appears with his wife Shakila and their children, Dolly, left rear, Muhammad Aashar, front left, and Mahlaka, front right, at their Millwoods home on Dec. 4, 2007. ((John Ulan of Epic Photography, courtesy of the Edmonton Journal))

An 11-year-old Edmonton boy is the sole surviving member of a family after a head-on crash killed six people on the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, B.C., on Sunday.

His father, Arshad Mahmood, his mother, Shakila, two sisters, Dolly, and Mahlaka, and a grandfather died late Sunday morning when their van hit a motorhome. A girl in the van, the daughter of family friends, was also killed.

The green Dodge Caravan drifted over the centre line before the crash, RCMP said.

Muhammad Aashar, who is going into Grade 7, was travelling in a second vehicle with another family that was accompanying the Mahmoods on a weeklong trip to Abbotsford, B.C.

"The family that Arshad's family were travelling with, he was in their car and at the moment he [the boy] is with them," said Madhu Sood, manager at the Welcome Centre for Immigrants in Edmonton, where Arshad was a settlement co-ordinator.

'Pray for Arshad's son'

"I would ask people to really pray for Arshad's son," she said. "The Pakistani community is going to be doing fundraising and, you know, I would ask people to open their hearts and think about this child and what is in the best interests of this child."

A close family friend and others have already offered to take the boy in, she added.

"We'll all be coming together to see what is in the best interest of this child."

Five members of an Edmonton family and a friend were killed late Sunday morning when the minivan they were travelling in slammed head-on into an RV on a straight stretch of highway east of Golden, B.C. ((RCMP))

The grandfather had arrived from Pakistan only three weeks earlier and Arshad Mahmood had taken a week of holidays to take his family to B.C., Sood said.

"His father, who was 81, had come to visit him for the first time since Arshad immigrated," she said. "Arshad was very excited to be taking his father and his family to British Columbia."

The Mahmoods came from Pakistan in 2006 and their extended family are all still there, Sood said. Shakila Mahmood's brother has received a visa and is coming to Canada, she added.

Arshad Mahmood, 47, was an extraordinary man, Sood and others said.

"He's the one who would, like, help anybody. You call him in the middle of the night and he was always there for people," said Shahid Saleem, a friend of Arshad. "He never said no."

Arshad Mahmood was a social worker with a master's degree who had lectured in Pakistan. He was nominated for the Edmonton Rise Community Awards, which recognize immigrants' success, three years in a row, she said.

He had a tremendous influence both in the Pakistani community and in the Edmonton not-for-profit community, Sood said.

"The not-for-profit community in south Edmonton is going to be completely devastated at this news."