Anouluck “Jeffrey” Chanminaraj loved playing video games and guitar. A student at Central Middle School, he was more artist than athlete, laid back and soft spoken, appearing even younger than his 13 years.
“He did everything for you and asked nothing in return,” said fellow student Chance Moggy, one of the many friends and family members who have contributed mementos to a memorial at the site where Chanminaraj was killed on Canada Day.
Jeffrey comes from a family of about 40 cousins, said Pongsavane Praseutsith, who recently returned to Red Deer to run a business with his brother after training and practising law in Australia.
Like Praseutsith, Jeffrey had dreamed of becoming a rock star.
“He was taking guitar lessons and I play guitar myself. I would tell him, these are the chords. A lot of the other kids liked the piano or did other things. I was really surprised he chose the guitar, without my influence, which was really cool,” said Praseutsith
“He was very passive. You knew that, when he grew up, he wasn’t going to be like one of those outspoken, star quarterback, play-on-the-sports-team kind of (people). You kind of knew he would be a video gamer or a musician.”
The Chanminaraj family, including Jeffrey, his brother, Jamie and their sister, Stephanie had been celebrating their father, Tony’s birthday. It was just before 11 p.m. and the three siblings were on their way to watch the fireworks at Bower Ponds, said Praseutsith.
Stephanie was driving because her boyfriend had just returned from work in Rocky Mountain House and was too tired to join in, he said.
The youngest of the three, Jeffrey had resisted the trip to Bower Ponds, saying he had already seen an earlier version of the fireworks and would rather stay home and play games.
The trio’s small car was rounding the corner, about to turn off Taylor Drive and onto to Kerry Wood Drive, when it collided with a full-sized pickup truck.
Stephanie, 20, was kept overnight at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and is now recovering at home. Jamie, 18, was airlifted to Calgary Foothills Hospital with bruises, lacerations and multiple fractures, including broken legs and a broken wrist.
Criminal charges including impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily injury, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily injury, refusing to supply a breath sample and breech of a recognizance have been laid against Rodney Arens, 32, of Red Deer. Arens has made his initial court appearance and is scheduled to enter a plea in Red Deer Provincial Court on July 23.
As Stephanie and Jamie’s physical wounds begin to heal, the anger and pain affecting everyone in the family are still mounting, said Praseutsith. Stephanie and her father are distraught, believing that if only the three of them had stayed home, Jeffrey would still be with them, practising guitar or playing one of his favourite games, he said.
“It’s one of those times when there is a lot of mixed emotions. There is a lot of anger as well. What do you do? You can’t turn back time.”
A funeral service for Jeffery has been set for the chapel at Parkland Funeral Home and Crematorium on Saturday at 1 p.m.