The Carleton University community has been left reeling following the fourth student death in less than three months.
As word spread on campus yesterday of the discovery of Nadia Kajouji’s body in the Rideau River late Sunday morning, students studying for exams paused to reflect on the impact the latest of four deaths have had on the school community.
“Obviously, it’s very tragic,” said Carleton University Students Association president Shelley Melanson. “It’s hard to lose anyone. It’s been a very difficult year for everyone.”
Melanson said it doesn’t matter whether students personally knew Kajouji, 18, or Vanessa Crawford, 19, Mark MacDonald, 20, and Brianne Deschamps, 19 — the trio of students who were killed when their SUV collided with an OC Transpo bus on Jan. 23 — “it’s very sad to have a peer, a friend or a colleague pass away.
“When you work and live in a small community like Carleton, people form a bond,” she said.
“It’s been a tragic chain of events,” said fourth-year political science student Austin Miller. “It started out with a sexual assault (in the Steacie Building) and ended with this.
“But through it all, the Carleton community stuck together and rallied around the families. It’s a testament to our strength and resilience.”
For weeks, everyone on campus has been talking about Kajouji, Miller said. “It was a mystery,” he said.
Third-year public affairs and policy student Scott Piffard knew Deschamps and Crawford from their hometown of Petrolia, where they attended the same high school.
“It was tragic,” he said of the deaths.
When student Sian Laing first heard about Kajouji’s disappearance six weeks ago, she “was under the impression that she ran away.” The discovery of the young woman’s body on Sunday, she said, was “a sad event.”
“My heart goes out to her family.”
Laing said she told her mother about a girl at her school who had gone missing. “She’d ask me if they found her yet and I don’t have the heart to tell her,” she said.
Kajouji’s aunt, Candita Martens-Mills, said as of yesterday afternoon that the family hasn’t confirmed any funeral arrangements.
Although Carleton held a memorial for the students killed in the crash, Melanson said she doesn’t know what will be done for Kajouji.
“It’s not our place to make a decision,” she said.
“It’s up to the family.”