Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grieving mom forgives driver

Believes fatal crash couldn't have been prevented

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Jacqueline Romanow went back three times on Friday to the place where her daughter died.

On the grieving mother's third visit to the site alongside Wellington Crescent shortly before 6 p.m., she brought her favourite photograph of her 17-year-old daughter, Julia, and a candle. She came and shed tears.

And she went to be close to her daughter.

"The medical examiner at St. Boniface wouldn't let me see her body," Romanow said. "I just want to be as close to her as possible... I have nowhere else to go to be close to her.

"I don't know how I'll ever get over this."

Julia Romanow was with four friends in an SUV -- all Grade 12 students on lunch hour from Kelvin High School -- when the vehicle lost control on a sharp turn on Wellington Crescent near Assiniboine Park, collided with a tree and threw her out of the vehicle.

The teenager died at the scene. The four others suffered injuries and the driver has since been charged with dangerous driving.

Romanow said she has already forgiven the driver.

She said the charges "won't make any difference to Julia's life.

"I know he already is going to suffer and I don't want to make it worse. I don't blame him for anything at all. It was young people leaving school and going somewhere.

"This was a tragic accident. It couldn't have been prevented."

Romanow, graduate co-ordinator of the University of Winnipeg's indigenous studies program, said she didn't know what happened to her daughter until about 6 p.m., when her former husband and Julia's father called with Winnipeg police officers still at his residence.

"He said something terrible has happened," she said.

"I thought she was in the hospital and we had to get down there, but then I learned it was already too late."

Romanow said she last saw her daughter when she dropped her off the evening before so she could play on her indoor soccer team.

"The last thing I told her was to be good," she said.

"She was pretty good at sports. She was good at gymnastics and she was on the provincial team. But she hurt her arm, so this year she decided to get back into soccer."

Julia was born in Winnipeg and went to school in Kingston, Ont., while her mother was earning her PhD and came back in time to enter Grade 6 at Grosvenor School.

Later, she went to River Heights School and then Kelvin.

Romanow described her daughter as "a free spirit" who "was a very outgoing girl.

"She made friends with everybody no matter where she went. Always very kind-hearted and giving and generous."

Romanow said her daughter still had no firm plans for what she was going to do after Grade 12, but she was hoping the teen would enrol at the same university she worked at.

"I was hoping to meet her for lunch and we'd talk about boys," she said, adding she has started to create a scholarship in her daughter's name at the U of W.

"It will be for a young student going into first year," she said.

"I wanted to do that for my daughter, but I didn't get the chance so I want to do that for others."

The mother also said they are in the early stages of planning a memorial service at St. Ignatius Church for Wednesday or Thursday.

Besides her mother and father, Julia is survived by four brothers, two younger and two older.

Walking to the crash site for just a few minutes, Romanow was met by a steady stream of sad-faced and teary-eyed students, many carrying flowers, adding to a growing pile of bouquets, candles and cigarettes.

Many wrote messages on the tree where the bark was stripped off in the collision: "Peace be with you" read one. "Love always," read another.

And "Love always, your mother."

A few blocks away, outside Julia's high school, Kelvin's school flag was flying at half-mast.

Inside, students said a sheet of paper had been taped to Julia's locker door where classmates wrote messages to her.

Romanow said she has a message for others. "You have to hold on to what you have and appreciate it," she said.

"You never know when something like this could happen."


video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A3


Updated on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 9:55 AM CDT: adds video

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