‘I couldn’t believe it’: Three international students from University of Manitoba have died in highway crash

WINNIPEG — Three international students have died after two vehicles crashed head-on along Highway 7, about seven kilometres south of Arborg, Man. on Thursday morning.

Mounties said a car headed southbound crashed head-on with a car travelling the opposite direction. The driver and sole occupant of the northbound car – a 53-year-old woman from the RM of Armstrong – had serious but non-life-threatening injuries. She was taken to hospital in Winnipeg.

There were three men in the southbound car, two 23-year-olds and another man whose age has not been confirmed. RCMP said all three were dead on the scene.

International student deathsSupplied image of one the men who died, Md Aranoor Azad Chowdhury

“It is tragic, this loss of life at this scale on a little stretch of Highway 7,” said Tara Seel, a media relations officer with the Manitoba RCMP.

Seel said investigators believe the three men driving together were friends.

“Our hearts are with those who have lost someone today.”

International student deathsSupplied image of one the men who died, Risul Badhon.

In a Facebook post, the University of Manitoba Bangladeshi Students’ Association said the students’ names were Md Aranoor Azad Chowdhury, AL Numan Aditta and Risul Badhon. The post said the three men died on Thursday morning in a highway accident outside of Winnipeg.

“We are requesting everyone to pray for the departed souls,” the association said.

International student deathsSupplied image of one the men who died, AL Numan Aditta.

Mohammad Alam, the general secretary of the Canada-Bangladesh Association of Manitoba said all three men were from Bangladesh.

The crash was reported around 6:20 a.m. Thursday morning and Alam said the three men were up in the area with other friends as they were all trying to see the Northern Lights.

He said they had finished their trip and started to make their way back to Winnipeg from a gas station.

“So the individuals who were involved in the crash, they finished their breakfast early and they took the gas and then they started for Winnipeg. But on their way they actually had this accident,” said Alam.

Alam is also a teacher at the International College of Manitoba, which is part of the University of Manitoba, and he said he taught the men.

“I couldn’t believe it. It’s so shocking.” He said the men were very bright and smart individuals.

“I’m still absorbing the news. It’s so hard for me because I know them in person. Not only I taught them, we used to play together, we used to play soccer together,” he said, adding one of the men was like a brother to him.

Alam said he has been in communication with family members overseas to determine next steps.

RCMP said alcohol is not considered a factor. Seel said it appears both drivers were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.

“It’s really early days in terms of this level of investigation to come to any sort of conclusion,” Seel said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to answer some of those questions soon, but again we are going to be thorough and do our due diligence and make sure that all those steps are taken.”

Crash near Arborg Feb 18 2021

Arborg RCMP and a Forensic Collision Reconstructionist are investigating the crash. The investigation is being aided by a Criminal Collision Investigation Team, though Seel said this is not because there is any criminal aspect of the investigation at this point.

“It’s again, those officers that have that specialty, the specialized training, and the years of experience,” said Seel. “They all work together to figure out what exactly happened.”

A FRIEND SPEAKS ON THE LOSS

Fardeen Zareef, a friend of the three men who died, described them as being the heart and soul of the community.

Zareef said Chowdhury was the life of the party, always smiling and motivating his friends.

“He was a ball of sunshine,” he said.

“We have a lot of mutual friends from back home and they were all telling me the same thing, that we just lost someone who is irreplaceable. All three of them are irreplaceable. But (Chowdhury), he was something else. You don’t see people like that, who is always happy.”

Zareef said Badhon was extremely hardworking.

“He was always working hard, setting his priorities straight, working towards his graduation so he could go help his family afterwards,” he said.

Zareef described Aditta as being a “sweetheart.”

“He’d always be home, he’d always be cooking,” he said.

Zareef said all three men were adventurous and wanted to travel and see the world.

“They were all very good people, who always had their hearts in the right place and their priorities set,” he said. 

He said when he heard the news of his friends’ death it was “devastating.”

“For all of us, it’s a major, major loss,” he said.

“We’re trying our best to make sure that their families get all the support and love that they need and their memories are kept in the best way possible because they deserve that, nothing but the best.”

Zareef said the Bangladeshi community in Winnipeg is very close.

“We don’t have our families around, so we are each other’s families here in Winnipeg,” he said.

The University of Manitoba said Aditta, Chowdhury and Badhon were “bright young men” who planned on graduating together during the spring.

“We can only imagine what contributions they would have made had their lives not been cut short,” said Michael Benarroch, president and vice-chanellor, in a statement. “We mourn with their families, friends and all who knew them.”

The flag at the university’s administrative building has been lowered to half-staff.

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