The vehicle crashed into the classroom and two eight-year-old boys died. Picture: Jonathan Ng
The vehicle crashed into the classroom and two eight-year-old boys died. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Students prepare for fresh start after tragedy

MOSTLY, there's the anticipation of seeing her friends again after the long summer break.

But when nine-year-old Hayam Malkawi goes back to school like thousands of other children on Tuesday, she ­admits her return will be tinged with trepidation.

It is less than three months since Hayam was carried from the rubble after a car ploughed through her classroom at Banksia Road Primary School in Greenacre, killing two of her classmates.

"I am happy all my friends are all right and I get to see them again, but sometimes I get nervous," she said at her family home.

Hayam, who starts Year 4 this year, was one of about 20 children drawing pirate pictures when a Toyota Kluger driven by the parent of another child careered through the building on November 7.

Andrew Encinas and Jihad Darwiche, both eight, were killed and three other children seriously injured.

Hayam Malkawi and her brother Ryan, are still trying to cope with the tragic accident, where two young students died. Picture: Tim Hunter
Hayam Malkawi and her brother Ryan, are still trying to cope with the tragic accident, where two young students died. Picture: Tim Hunter

Speaking about the traumatic accident for the first time this week, Hayam told how a change in routine may have saved her life.

She was meant to be sitting in an ­Arabic class, but the teacher was absent so the pupils were moved next door. As a result, one of the classrooms was empty.

In another lucky twist, Hayam chose to sit at the front of the classroom rather than her usual place at the back.

"If I stayed in my normal spot I would've got hurt," she said.

Although she can't recall in great detail what happened just before 10am on that day, she remembers a roaring sound, like a tornado ripping through the building.

"When the class stopped shaking I couldn't get outside, the tables and everything was blocking the way," she said.

"My teacher had to move the tables and get me out of it because I couldn't get out. She had to carry me because I couldn't walk."

Jihad Darwiche died following the crash. Picture: Supplied
Jihad Darwiche died following the crash. Picture: Supplied

Around the corner, Hayam's mother Hanan Gzawi was buying her daughter a skirt for an upcoming party when another parent called to tell her of the chaos unfolding at the school.

Mrs Gzawi, who was heavily pregnant, ran crying down Boronia Rd as she ducked past police to find her daughter, who suffered gashes to her legs.

Since then, Mrs Gzawi and her husband Nasim Malkawi focused on counselling their daughter.

 

 

Part of the Banksia Road Public School is still roped off. Picture: Tim Hunter
Part of the Banksia Road Public School is still roped off. Picture: Tim Hunter

 

 

Their son Ryan, 7, also ­attends the school and while making his bed recently Mrs Gzawi found a letter he wrote for Jihad Darwiche.

Ryan said: "I wrote to him and said, 'I love you Jihad, I wish you go to heaven with hearts and stars'. "

The handwritten letter by Hayam Malkawi to the two boys who died last year when a car drove into their classroom.
The handwritten letter by Hayam Malkawi to the two boys who died last year when a car drove into their classroom.

The trauma of the past months has weighed heavily on the school community, which has rallied together to ensure the start to the year is as smooth as possible for the students.

Mr Malkawi said the support has been incredible and the parents didn't think twice about sending their children back to the school this year.

"It has really been incredible, more support than I have spent in my whole life," he said.

Asked how the parents felt towards the driver, 52-year-old Maha Al-Shennag, Mrs Gzawi said: "We all stand with her."

Part of the Banksia Road Public School is still roped off. Picture: Tim Hunter
Part of the Banksia Road Public School is still roped off. Picture: Tim Hunter

Ms El-Shennag's case is currently being processed in court. She was originally charged with two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and negligent driving occasioning death.

Those charges have been revised based on injuries to some of the other children involved to include dangerous driving ­occasioning grievous bodily harm and causing actual ­bodily harm by misconduct.

Opposition education spokesman and former principal of Punchbowl Boys High School Jihad Dib said the ­tragedy brought out the Greenacre community's "steely resolve".

"People have been galvanised in ways we couldn't have ever imagined," Mr Dib said.

"There is a resolve throughout the community, from parents to local business owners, to support the school."

Teachers, bureaucrats and parents are in talks about the most appropriate memorial to Andrew and Jihad.

Jihad Darwiche died following the crash. Picture: Supplied
Jihad Darwiche died following the crash. Picture: Supplied
Ryan Malkawi, 7, penned a letter to his friends Jihad Darwiche and Andrew Encinas after the children were killed in the Banksia Road Public School tragedy in November, 2017.
Ryan Malkawi, 7, penned a letter to his friends Jihad Darwiche and Andrew Encinas after the children were killed in the Banksia Road Public School tragedy in November, 2017.
The damaged classroom. Picture: Jonathan Ng
The damaged classroom. Picture: Jonathan Ng

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