This story originally appeared in the Vaughan Citizen.
The mood was sombre and the halls were quiet at Saint Joan of Arc Catholic High School Tuesday, as students mourned the loss of two classmates following the second tragedy to hit the school in less than a month.
Ryan Sheridan, 17, and Niko Di Iorio, 15, both of Maple, died after their Volkswagon Golf spun into a ditch and crashed into a tree Monday afternoon on Keele Street just south of Lloydtown-Aurora Road. Both died instantly. On Jan. 12, Steven Seixeiro, 17, died on the same street after being struck by a tractor trailer on his way to school.
Giancarlo Stalteri, 15, survived the crash, and was airlifted and rushed to a hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. Police say it looks like he will survive.
The teens were heading up north for a skiing and snowboarding trip when they crashed.
Police arrived to find the car wrapped around a tree shortly after the accident. They said speed was the primary issue and weather was not a factor. Both victims were wearing seat belts. Police estimate the car was moving at roughly double the posted speed limit of 70 km/h.
Const. Mike Buchanan of York Regional Police said he hasn’t seen many accidents that have compared in his 15 years of service.
“It was a really really bad crash,” he said. “It’s probably right up there with one of the worst ones I’ve seen…it’s just a waste, an absolute waste.”
Students gathered at a candle-lit chapel on Tuesday to reflect upon the loss. Chris Cable, spokesperson for the York Catholic District School Board, said the student body has been deeply affected.
“Everyone is shocked. The prevailing sentiment is that these were two very young people cut down in the prime of their lives, and there’s nothing worse than that,” she said. “We’re all offering our prayers to the family.”
A Facebook memorial group dedicated to Niko Di Iorio had over 1,800 members on Wednesday. A memorial group for Ryan could not be located at the time of publication. Friends of Niko such as Steph LaCivita expressed a range of emotions, from denial, to grief, to shock.
“I’m in such denial right now, I’m honestly just waiting for you to walk right through the door and tell me that this was all a joke,” she said. “You were such a heaven sent gift from God, such a positive and energetic person who always found ways to brighten up my day and put a smile on my face.”
Others such a Jesse Venafrica showed that it will be a long while before the community stops mourning.
“I will never forget you bro, and the good times we had on Xbox” he said. “Every time I go on Xbox now I think of you.”
Grief counselors were at the school on Tuesday to help students deal with the tragedy. Gayle Browne, a counselor with Kids Help Phone, said it’s natural for kids to feel a wide range of emotions that they may not expect, such as anxiety, shock, and panic.
“Often (youth dealing with grief) are confused, they don’t know what they’re feeling, and that’s not unusual,” she said. “The big question is often ‘What do I do, and how long is this going to go on?’”
She said first and foremost, the most important thing is for youth to let out their emotions, rather than bottling them up. She noted that this can sometimes be difficult, because teens can sometimes be shy or embarrassed to share their feelings.
“The most important thing they can do is expressing it somehow,” Ms Browne said. “It doesn’t have to be verbal.”
She said creative activities such as writing and drawing can be a tremendous help for youth coping with grief.
Starting a memorial or tribute to the deceased can be helpful, as she says the process of creating is therapeutic. It also gives teens a way to express what the relationship meant to them, and lets the teens keep all the memories in one place.
She recommended youth to stay in a group setting, as talking with others in the same place reassures them that their feelings are natural.
Ms Browne also said it is crucial for teens to make sure they are eating and sleeping right and exercising.
“You often hear of people skipping meals, or just in general feeling unmotivated and in a slump,” she said. “That can steer you in the direction of depression.”
Something to avoid is going numb and not coming to terms with your emotions. Ms Browne said that this can often lead to destructive forms of coping such as violence or drugs.
“Youth may start to get ideas on how to comfort themselves in that moment that may not be so healthy,” she said. “Instead of doing those things, you can talk to someone.”
Friends of Niko such as Eric Gabriel Iaboni will remember him as an optimistic young man with high spirits.
“No matter what people said to him he would always have a great big smile on his face, he was a guy that could make you smile in the darkest of times,” he said. “No one will ever understand what Niko did to people.”
Police are asking any witnesses to contact the collision reconstruction unit at 1-866-876-5423 ext. 7794.