Why was she on the grounds? Distraught family of boy, 8, killed in school tragedy ask why the driver ‘opened closed gates’ to get inside – as she refuses to talk
- Grandfather of boy killed in Sydney school tragedy says they ‘were best friends’
- Students Andrew and Jihad, 8, lost their lives after car smashed into classroom
- Their distraught family has questioned why Al-Shennag was inside the grounds
- Maha Al-Shennag has been charged with dangerous driving occasioning death
- The 52-year-old mother-of-four lost control of her Toyota Kluger about 9.45am
- There are fears the tragic car crash at a school in Sydney could be health hazard
- Deadly asbestos was found inside walls of smashed classroom in Greenacre
A relative of one of two boys killed when a car crashed into a Sydney primary school classroom has questioned why the woman was driving inside school grounds.
Police confirmed they were investigating why the Toyota Kluger SUV had passed through the gates of Banksia Road Public School moments before the crash.
The driver Maha Al-Shennag was holed up inside a house in Sydney on Wednesday after being charged with two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death.
Relatives of the 52-year-old told Daily Mail Australia less than 24 hours after the crash that she was ‘deeply sorry’ about the incident, but ‘does not want to talk’.
Hitting out on social media in the hours after the crash on Tuesday, a relative of one of the boys’ said they were finding it hard to be ‘sympathetic’ to the mother-of-four.
‘We are… trying to be sympathetic to the mother who did this but gates were closed, you don’t open (them),’ the relative wrote.
A sign at the entrance of the driveway where Al-Shennag is alleged to have driven in says: ‘STOP. No vehicle access. Caution Children. Staff and authorised vehicles only.’
Parents at the school said the carpark in front of the classroom which was struck was used for staff parking.
The horrific crash took the lives of eight-year-old best friends Andrew and Jihad.
At the address where Al-Shennag is in hiding, a member of her family told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘sorry’, but not ready to talk about the shocking incident.
‘No comment thanks… she’s deeply sorry, but doesn’t want to talk about it,’ a relative said.
Moments later, a burqa-wearing woman was seen clashing with other media outside the house.
Neighbours also told Daily Mail Australia that Al-Shennag is a widow who looks after her four children aged 15, 12 and twins aged 11, on her own.
Family members of the boys also revealed on Tuesday evening that they were ‘best friends who died together’.
Grieving children returned to Banksia Road Public School on Wednesday morning to pay tribute to the lives of the two boys.
As photos of the two boys, named Andrew and Jihad, circulated on social media on Tuesday night, their shocked family members paid tribute to lives taken too soon.
‘My grandson is a 6 generation at this school, all prefects, captains and community leaders,’ Peter Litsas, who identified himself as Andrew’s relative, wrote.
‘Andrew loved everyone and died with his best friend.’
It comes as a relative of another Banksia Road Primary School student injured in the accident began a petition to ban cars from school grounds across Australia.
Sarah Elkordi, whose young niece was hurt when the car ploughed into the portable classroom, said even the cars of teachers should not enter the school.
‘You take your kids to school thinking they will be safe not thinking they aren’t coming home,’ Ms Elkordi wrote.
‘This petition is to BAN ALL VEHICLES ENTERING SCHOOL GROUNDS – including staff. Our children’s safety is first.’
Extra counsellors were sent to the school to help traumatised children; many of who watched on helplessly as their two classmates lay trapped beneath the 4WD.
One of the boys was knocked unconscious and trapped underneath the car, while the other suffered a large gash wound to his head and was flattened to the ground.
The pair were rushed to Westmead Children’s Hospital but both tragically passed away due to cardiac arrest.
Al-Shennag was charged with two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and was granted strict conditional bail on Tuesday afternoon.
Police will reportedly allege she was distracted by something inside her car. She was seen darting out of Bankstown Police Station with her face covered on Tuesday.
They have reportedly ruled out any suggestion she suffered a medical episode.
Her lawyer Nick Hanna said she was ‘deeply sorry for the loss and hurt suffered by the children, the school, the families and the community’.
‘Her thoughts and prayers are with all those affected,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
Khaled Arnaout, one of the heroic first responders, revealed one of the young boys’ last words was asking for his mother.
‘He kept asking where his mum was,’ Mr Arnaout said.
‘I said, ‘your mum will come for you shortly’.’
There are renewed fears for other students, teachers, parents and first responders as it was revealed asbestos was among the used in the walls of the smashed classroom.
A spokesman for New South Wales Education said ‘asbestos-containing materials had been identified inside the building’.
Emergency services have been working at the scene to investigate the cause for the crash and determine the extent of the presence of asbestos.
‘The removal of any asbestos that may have been disturbed in the damaged building will be managed in compliance with SafeWork NSW requirements,’ the spokesman said.
‘The Department’s first priority is to the students and staff of Banksia Road Public School, and we are currently focused on supporting them.’
Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Parents, students and members of the wider community have come together to mourn the two young victims of the tragic car crash.
People gathered outside the school on Tuesday evening, laying flowers and remembering the young lives that were lost.
A large notice was posted, handwritten by students from the year above the 3T class that saw their room collapsed by the out-of-control vehicle.
‘Rest in Peace Andrew and Jihad, you will never be forgotten,’ the sign reads.
Hundreds gathered outside the school in an outpouring of grief and emotion on Tuesday.
Adults and children had to be comforted by others attending the vigil with many breaking down in tears at the sight of the destroyed classroom.
‘He was a beautiful boy’: Hero first responder Khaled Arnaout charged towards the scene after hearing a loud bang, screaming and crying
Among those attending the vigil was Lakemba MP Jihad Dib, who spoke and held a moment’s silence at the memorial.
‘Please keep these two little boys and their family in your prayers and God willing a speedy recovery to those in hospital,’ he said.
‘Make sure you tell your parents you love them.’
Neighbour and tradesman Mr Arnaout revealed he bolted towards the school after hearing a loud ‘bang’ and found a tragic scene of blood and chaos.
With the help of at least one other man, he lifted the 4WD off one of the boys.
The child was unconscious, but his eyes were open.
‘(I) keep seeing the blue eyes staring up at me,’ a heartbroken Mr Arnaout told Daily Mail Australia. ‘He was a beautiful boy.’
The other boy who later died had a big gash to his head. But when Mr Arnaout was present, he was conscious and kept asking for his mother.
‘He kept asking where his mum was and that hurt,’ he said.
‘I said, ‘your mum will come for you shortly’.’
After the accident, he saw the driver was in the back seat of the car yelling out ‘help, I’m sorry’.
A tradesman, Mr Arnaout had popped home to get something when he heard a loud ‘bang’.
He didn’t think much of it until he heard screaming and crying as well.
His first thought was his daughter who attended the school. The short run to the scene of the crash felt like a ‘marathon’, he said.
‘(I) run over there, see the whole wall and debris everywhere and blood.’
‘Another guy (stood) next to the car, instinct got us, we lifted the car.
‘We saw the kid looking at us from under the car.’
He later found out the boys had died from the police press conference.
‘I broke down and thought I could have done more.’
He believes it could have helped to have had a defibrillator in the classroom.