Winnipeg couple killed when ambulance crashes during Cuban vacation

Rozsa and Janos Boda were celebrating the new year and Janos’ 50th birthday with a vacation in Cuba when tragedy struck.

Rózsa and János Boda were celebrating János’ 50th birthday

Janos and Rozsa Boda celebrated his 50th birthday at Memories Caribe resort in Caya Coco before tragedy struck. (GoFundMe)

Rozsa and Janos Boda were celebrating the new year and Janos' 50th birthday with a vacation in Cuba when tragedy struck.

While staying at Memories Caribe Beach Resort in Cayo Coco on Jan. 5, Rozsa, 51, began having chest pains so the Winnipeg couple called for an ambulance to bring her to a nearby hospital.

Janos didn't want her to ride alone, so he got inside.

On the way to the hospital, the ambulance slammed into a cement barrier and both were killed.

In that instant, the lives of the couple's three children — Veronika Mayer, 27, Bettina, 16, and Martin, 15 — were changed forever.

"It doesn't feel real. Like they are supposed to come home tonight at 9 p.m.," Mayer said. 

The couple left on the trip New Year's Day. The night before they left, Mayer said she made sure to tell her parents that she loved them. 

"Those were like the last spoken words that I said to them because I never thought this would happen," she said. "I never realized how precious life was but I always knew that you had to say, 'I love you.'"
Veronika Mayer, 27, Bettina Boda, 16, and Martin Boda, 15, say they are shocked at the deaths of their parents in Cuba. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

'We can't even comprehend it yet'

Mayer received a call from Winnipeg police on Jan. 5 that her parents had died in the collision. She immediately called Elaine Csupak, another family member. 

"It's just been such a shock and the hole that they will leave in our lives, we can't even comprehend it yet," Csupak said. "It was so sudden and so fast and there's so much happening all at once."

Csupak's husband, Zoltan, was Janos' cousin and the families were very close. Csupak's husband was named the legal guardian of the children.

"What that's going to look like now, we are trying to figure that out as a family," Csupak said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover the costs associated with getting the couple's bodies back to Canada and their funeral.

The money will also be used to help support the children as they adapt to a very different future.

Winnipeg couple killed during Cuban vacation

CBC News Manitoba

5 years ago
Rozsa and Janos Boda were celebrating the new year and Janos' 50th birthday with a vacation in Cuba when tragedy struck. 2:34
Finding love in Hungary

Janos Boda grew up in Hungary and his own parents died when he was young, Csupak said. When he finished university he came to Canada. 

He'd been living in Winnipeg for a few years when, about 20 years ago, he met Rozsa. She was still living in Hungary with Mayer, a daughter she had from a previous relationship, but they talked all the time online and he would fly to visit her. Eventually they decided to get married and begin a life together in Winnipeg.

"They were very affectionate and loving," Csupak said.  

"They really loved each other."

Mayer said Janos immediately became her father. 

The Bodas pose with their children and Veronika Mayer's fiance, William Rutherford, during the recent holidays. (Submitted)

As their family grew, the couple loved spending time with their children and watching them grow.

"My dad was always able to make me laugh when I'm going through a hard time," Bettina said, adding she would miss her mother's laugh. 

"She was his queen. He loved her so much."

They were very active in the community, particularly with the Hungarian pavilion at Folklorama.

Janos Boda worked for Manitoba Agricultural Services and Rozsa Boda was an elementary school teacher at Carman Elementary School.

"It's just unbelievable that two people — who are such great loving parents and good-hearted people, really involved in their community — and they're gone overnight and their children's lives are just shattered and changed," Csupak said.

Janos was also a passionate outdoorsman and loved to go fly fishing.

"When I have kids of my own I am going to teach them how to make a fly and we are going to go fishing," Martin said. 

"This is supposed to happen when you've graduated and you get married and they get to see your children and they get to be grandparents. It's not supposed to happen now."

'Very quiet building'

Officials with Carman Elementary School, which is part of the Prairie Rose School Division, met Friday and put together a crisis response team that included grief counsellors, social workers and psychologists. 

Terry Osiowy, superintendent and CEO of the division, said parents were notified over the weekend that school officials would be discussing the tragic news of Boda's death with students first thing Monday morning.

"It's a very quiet building right now. Staff are pulling it together as strong as they can," Osiowy said.

"Some students are struggling with it. We're trying to keep to routine, bring it back as normal as possible, but it's challenging for the staff because they lost a very close colleague."

A teacher who knows the students well is filling in for Boda until a permanent replacement can be found.

"It's just a difficult time," Osiowy said. "The school is doing the best it can at this particular time."

Rózsa and János Boda's children remember their parents who were killed in a crash in Cuba

CBC News Manitoba

5 years ago
On the way to a hospital in Cuba the ambulance slammed into a cement barrier and Rózsa and János were killed. 2:50

The Boda's two teenage children attend Oak Park High School, where grief counsellors were brought in Monday.

"Our thoughts are with the family. Supports are in place today and as long as needed," Ted Fransen, the Pembina Trails School Division superintendent, said in a statement Monday.

"Oak Park and Pembina Trails are fortunate to have outstanding staff who are there for students during difficult times like this."

With files from Erin Brohman and Bryce Hoye