Survivors of horrific Stratford crash back on their feet

Two survivors of a horrific crash near Stratford in February are getting on their feet with the help of a generous donation.
Two migrant workers who were in this van and survived a deadly crash in Hampstead, Ont., in February are getting back on their feet. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Two survivors of a horrific crash near Stratford in February are getting on their feet with the help of a generous donation.

Javier Aldo Medina and Juan Jose Ariza were the only two to survive the collision between the passenger van they were in a delivery truck.

Ten of their colleagues — all migrant workers — were killed when their van was hit by a flatbed truck. The truck driver was also killed.

'For some reason, God wanted me to live.'— Javier Aldo Medina

Each of the survivors and the families of the victims will receive a share of more than $200,000 raised by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

Medina, speaking through an interpreter at news conference Wednesday in London, fought back tears as he recalled the night that will haunt him forever.

"I remember being in that car and thinking that I was going to die, but for some reason, God wanted me to live," Medina said.

He remembers after the crash, looking at a co-worker's bloody face, a face that seemed to say "Come and help me," he said. But he could hardly move himself.

"I feel so guilty for not having had the ability to do something to help them," Medina said.

Both survivors were in the back of the van. Ariza vividly remembers the moments before the collision. He looked up and saw a fast-moving truck that was rushing towards them.

"And all of a sudden, I lock eyes with the driver and it's as if my body escaped me. My soul leaped out of my body," Ariza said.

Ariza sat beside Medina at the news conference Wednesday. He struggled with his emotions.

'I really don't know why I'm alive.'— Juan Jose Ariza

"I really don't know why I'm alive. I don't know what my purpose is, but I do know that it's God's will," he said. "I'm a testament of life, of hope, of living through this tragedy."

Both men have made steady progress since they were released from a hospital to a nursing home in north London. 

Ariza suffered a bad gash to his head and pain still shoots into his spine, preventing him from walking properly. Medina suffered nine fractured ribs and a broken pelvis. He said his biggest hurdle is overcoming the psychological scars.

They're applying to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds. They eventually want to get new jobs here to support their families back in Peru.