A kind soul gone forever - Death of teen fire victim leaves void in the lives of special-needs school family
Christina Peart had been holding her breath and desperately waiting to hear long-time friend Sanjay Williams tell her he liked her. She had had a crush on him for as long as she could remember and hoped with all her heart that he would return the affection.
Alas, because of the illegal and careless action of others, that day will never come.
Fourteen-year-old Williams was a victim of last Sunday's massive explosion at an illegal gas-filling plant on Jacques Road, off Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew. Several compressed gas cylinders from a storage tank attached to the back of a motor truck exploded, seriously injuring five persons, two of whom died.
Forty-eight-year-old Everett Austin died on Monday, while Williams passed away on Thursday at the Kingston Public Hospital, despite desperate efforts to save him. One of the teen's brothers, who was also injured in the explosion, is among the three persons still admitted in serious condition.
Williams was an eighth-grade student at the Randolph Lopez School of Hope in St Andrew for special-needs children, because of his intellectual disability. His
death has left the entire school community in mourning, but especially his classmates. Chief among them is Peart, whom he spoke to the most in class.
The young lady said that during her last conversation with Williams, she told him she liked him, and although he responded that he did not like her, his actions always indicated otherwise.
"I told him that I liked him and he said he didn't like me, but he was very kind to me and I know he really liked me too," Peart told The Sunday Gleaner. "I feel sad. I knew him from primary school and he would call me sometimes."
Williams' class teacher Lsyhann Lecky revealed that students and teachers alike cried openly when news broke of the tragedy.
"He was loved by his friends. I didn't know that he was loved so much until they heard of his passing and everyone started crying," a sorrowful Lecky shared.
"He was really kind. We recently got a new student who was in a wheelchair; the only student in a wheelchair, and Sanjay would actually push up the wheelchair to the student and try to lift him up, but he is really tall and frail in body, so I told him not to do that, so he would push up the wheelchair and say, 'Come Miss, your time now'."
Ronardo Lindsay, who also hails from Jacques Road and suffered minor burns to his left leg from the explosion, revealed that he still cries each time he looks at his friend's picture.
"Is football we said we were going to play and I went to call him and he said he will soon come when it happened," Lindsay recounted. "When I heard (he died), I felt sad, and when I got home, I started to cry, and I told my mother and she started crying too."
He continued, "Every time I look at his picture, I just cry. He was so kind to me and he was my best, best friend from in seventh grade. And he didn't hurt me no time. He would always give me his things and I give him things I have, and we went home together every day."
Principal of the school, Sylvestina Reid, described Williams as a disciplined child whose parents did not have to be summoned to the school for any reason.
"If Sanjay does anything wrong and you correct him, he would listen and take heed," Reid shared. "He wasn't one of those who flared up; never. He would say, 'OK, I am sorry', and he would move on."
Lecky said the young man was a steady student, and while there was usually a deficit in spelling with boys, this was the subject he excelled at.
"He was really quiet and had a calm demeanour; he didn't talk much. He would mainly speak with the girl beside him. She (Peart) had known him from primary school, so they spoke a lot, but it wouldn't disrupt the class," Lecky said.
"The only problem I had with him was that at lunchtime, he would play so much that when he came into the class, his shirt would be wet, wet."
Most of that sweating would be due to him playing his favourite sport, football, another thing he excelled at. In fact, he was one of the star players on the school's football team.
"Sanjay was the vice-captain of the football team because he was a well-behaved boy. He was like a leader to some of the other boys," physical education teacher and football coach Roan Montague shared as he fought to hold back tears.
"He was always threatening me that he was going to pile me when we would play football together because he was a very good football player. But football wasn't even his greatest attribute; it is the fact that he was such a well-behaved boy. When others were giving trouble, he would be the one to say 'behave yourselves'."
Williams, who played on the team for the past two years, missed their opening match of the season, which was played the same day he died.
"He had been to every football competition that we have had because he was a very good player, scoring goals for the team, making passes, defending. He was a well-rounded player," Montague continued.
"A serious void has been left because he was a leader and because of the position he played. Those are all gone now."