Teen killed in crash had turned his life around

Kareem Ghazal, who died Sunday following a crash while delivering newspapers with his mother, had worked hard for better marks in high school and was on his way to university, where he wanted to become an engineer.

Mourners recall how Kareem Ghazal, 17, strove for good marks and a spot in university

The Ottawa teen who died from injuries suffered in a crash while delivering newspapers was preparing to go to university after working hard to get better marks in school, friends and family said as they gathered for his funeral Monday afternoon.

Kareem Ghazal, 17, would also help his family whenever they needed him to, his former mentor said.

This van was being driven by Waffa Elhaddad when she lost control and rolled the vehicle into the ditch. Her son, Kareem Ghazal, died Sunday. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

"It's definitely a pride for the family. If one thing made him stand out from a lot of the other kids is that he really, really took his family seriously," said Asad Ahmed, a youth co-ordinator and the Bayshore Community Association.

Ahmed was asked a few years ago by Ghazal's father to help mentor his son, so he could turn his marks around and pursue his dream of becoming an electrical engineer.

"It really made me happy to know that he wanted to actually grab his life by the horns. It will be hard to forget about him, that's for sure," Ahmed said.

Ghazal was helping his mother, Waffa Elhaddad, 38, deliver both the Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen newspapers early last Wednesday morning in Stittsville. He died of his injuries on Sunday.

Elhaddad lost control of the van and it hit a ditch, causing it to roll over near the intersection of Shea and Fernbank roads in Ottawa's southwest end.

She escaped the wrecked van, which came to rest in a corn field, and sustained abdominal and spinal injuries but was released from hospital later the same day.

Alcohol was ruled out as a factor.

Ghazal was taken to the intensive care unit and listed in a coma late last week as his father, Bassem Ghazal, was set to fly home from Gaza, where he was staying.

The decision was made to take Kareem Ghazal off life support early Sunday.

"It’s a very difficult time," family friend Sami Gharbiya said. "He was supposed to go to university, and he was really happy. He was good in school. He was a smart guy."

Ghazal had recently graduated from St. Paul's Catholic High School. Teacher Mark Wormke called him a "hard-working student," saying "he was very dedicated, and always very cheerful. It'll be a loss to St. Paul's."

Ghazal was also the oldest son of five children. None of his siblings was able to leave their home in Gaza to attend his funeral.

Friends, family, classmates and teachers attended the service at the Ottawa Mosque, which was followed by a procession to Carp in the city's west end.

Ghazal's parents will be at the Abraar Islamic School for condolences with the community between 6 and 9 p.m.