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Adela Etibako, a native of war torn Congo, was separated from her husband during
a brutal raid. Adela fled to Canada with several of her children. Although her family
faced life in lesser circumstances than previously, Adela's perserverance and love
began to make things better for her family. Her caring is also extended to her
Congolese community in Canada, becoming known as "Mom Adela."
Living in an area where sons and daughters can become caught up in trouble,
Adela tried to keep her children from violence.
Yet violence in the form of a former friend of one of her sons, and that violence
cost precious lives.
Ashley Singh (16)
Top: mother Adela Etibako, son Stephane Etibako (8)
Bottom: Edita Malonga Etibako, (13), Benedicta Etibako (9)
The Singh and Etibako families, and their friends, mourn the loss of their loved ones.
FLIGHT FROM THE CONGO
1997 - War, violence, and fear.
Eddy Etibako and his wife Adela lived in Kinshasa under the dictator Mobutu
Sese Seko. Eddy's job was in that same government. But in May 1997, Laurent
Kabila's rebel army overthrew the government and drove Mobutu out of the country.
They targeted anyone who had worked or had been associated with the goverment.
J.P. Etibako (brother of Eddy)
"Anybody who was in the old government -- the new government tried to arrest
Eddy Etibako is arrested several times during Kabila's reign. Adela fears for
not only for his life, but for hers and the children's lives. Adela later claimed
in her refugee application that she had been raped numerous times, both
at her home and at the jail, even while pregnant with her 6th child.
During another brutal raid, Eddy and Adela, flee, but are separted in the chaos.
Pregnant, with five of their children, Adela flees to Canada. Other relatives,
including two of Eddy's brothers, and his daughter from a previous relationship,
also flee to other countries.
"[Adela] and the kids had to fly to Canada because they were persecuted here."
1997 - Adela Etibako has given birth to a boy, Stephane.
"Adela was a very kind and very good mother for the children. She loved the
kids. She was a very family person, very outgoing with everybody . . . She
didn't have any problems with anyone."
2001 - Kabila is assassinated. Life slowly improves in the Congo.
Eddy Etibako runs for a seat in the Congo's National Assembly
in the elections.
CANADA - REFUGEE CLAIM
Adela's refugee claim is rejected.
LIFE IN CANADA
2005 - Bolingo Etibako has a friend, Nathan Richard Fry.
The two young men are jointly charged in a stabbing incident.
Both are later acquitted.
Nathan Richard Fry is angry at his now former friend, believing that
Bolingo fingered him to police about 2 stabbings near SkyTrain
stations they had been charged with, and then acquitted of.
Some of Adela & Eddy's children, Chris, Ornela (T.J.) and Yanick are grown
up. Yanick is pregnant, living with her boyfriend. Carol, Adela's stepdaughter,
lives in London.
T.J. still lives at home with brothers Bolingo (16), Stephane (8), sisters Edita
Malonga Etibako, (13), Benedicta Etibako (9). Bolingo's girlfriend, Ashely
Singh (16) often stays overnight with Bolingo and the family.
Florencia Cepeda (14) (Neighbor)
"Adela "was always trying to help everybody out, like if anybody ever had
a problem or needed something, she wanted to help."
Chantel Musende (a close friend of Adela)
"Ornella was mindful but Bolingo would go his own way.
"To raise the kids in Canada is not easy. It's not like in Africa
when I grew up."
Sunendra Makiwita (Neighbor & friend of Adela)
"Bolingo clashed with his mom because their home had become a
drop-in for his friends. His mother used to chase them out. Things
came to a head at a New Year's Eve party at the Etibako home 17
months ago when police were called to a stabbing that occurred
when party crashers arrived."
Mary Kabongolo (Friend of Adela)
"The family is "really nice" and Adela Etibako raised the children on her own
and lived for her kids."
The younger three, Edita, Benedicta, and Stephane attend a French immersion
school in Grades 2, 4 and 7.
"They were happy, outgoing kids who had lots of friends at school."
Benedicta Etibako Stephane Etibako
2006 - May 14 - Sunday - Adela Etibako is happy, it's Mother's Day, all of her
children had been together to give her flowers, gifts
and cards. In the afternoon, Adela is leaving to visit
a friend. She bids T.J. an affectionate goodbye before
Adela Etibako "Mom Adela"
"Earlier I'd given her a card, a purse and flowers for Mother's Day.
She said goodbye as she left to visit a friend. She said "If anything
happened, I'd have to be the man of the house and a "good boy."
That night, T.J. spends the night with friends.
"I met my girlfriend after work and she stayed overnight.
We went to bed after 11 p.m. because I had to work the
Bolingo Etibako Ashley Singh
Chantel Musende (a close friend of Adela)
"Adela turned down offer to stay overnight Sunday after a Mother's Day
get-together at our home. "I said, 'It's midnight. Send the kids to go upstairs."
"Then Adela said, 'Oh no, tomorrow is Monday. You forget the kids need to
go to school.'"
2006 - May 15 - Monday Morning
3:30 A.M. - Sunendra Makawita, a neighbour living in an apartment across
from the Etibako family is awakened by the sound of running
footsteps. She hears two male voices outside her window,
moving away from the Etibako residence, a unit at Skeena
Terrace, on the ground floor, at 2484 Cassiar St., part of a
sprawling 234-unit social housing complex.
"One said, "Get down, get down. The other said, "Okay, Okay."
They sounded like teenagers or young adults."
EXPLOSION & FIRE
The sound of an explosion rends the night air.
"I saw fire, then heard an explosion."
Witness/Neighbor (She is not allowed to be identified under a court order)
"I awoke to screams from children crying and shrieking for help.
I immediately ran in my underwear and saw 9-year-old Benedicta Etibako
and her 8-year-old brother, Stephane, in third-floor windows screaming for help.
They were struggling and their faces were white and they were gasping for air.
I urged the children to jump from the windows, but they were unable to do so.
I saw neighbors watching from nearby buildings who refused to respond
to my cries for help."
SURVIVOR OF THE BLAZE
"I normally slept in a bedroom upstairs in our family's townhouse
but -- on the night of the fire -- I was sleeping on a couch on the main floor.
Ashley (Singh) was beside me.
My girlfriend Ashley (Singh) had earlier awoken to say she thought she
heard something, but I told her it was probably from the restaurant
across the street.
Next time I woke up, I was awoken by a loud explosion. It was hot, extremely
hot. There was scorching heat. The place was on fire. I was on fire and I tried
to find an escape. The fire was raging in every room.
As soon as I felt the heat of the fire, I ran to the back door but the heat
was so strong I burned my hands and arms. Ashley (Singh) fell down as
we tried to get out of the house, but I couldn't help her because my arms
and hands were so badly burned."
"I heard screams from one of the rooms where my younger siblings slept but
I couldn't reach anyone. I jumped out of the second-storey kitchen window and
landed on the grassy front lawn, naked, bleeding and frantic to get help."
"I saw up to 10 people watching the fire. I asked people what are you doing?
I was naked and they looked in shock to see how I was and they had a weird
reaction towards me. I ran to a nearby restaurant and a woman poured water
on me, the owner called the fire department. By the time I raced back the
police and ambulance were there."
"I was telling authorities who was still in the house when there was a
big explosion. The house blew up - boom! I lost consciousness at that
point and woke up later in hospital."
Ashley Singh's Cousin
"She was a good kid. She was innocent."
Sarah Carmo (former classmate)
"She (Ashley) was very happy. She worked a lot. She was a hard worker."
3:49 A.M. - Police respond to an emergency call and begin kicking
doors open to get everyone out.
Constable Tim Fanning (Vancouver Police Dept.)
"A very frantic scene."
Bolingo Etibako is taken to the hospital.
4:30 A.M. - Police cordon off an area around the complex, closing
off several streets.
5:00 A.M. - T. J. Etibako arrives home.
A SHOCKING DISCOVERY
"I'd gone to the Keg restaurant with my girlfriend earlier in the evening, went to
Prospect Point and had a few beers with a friend, then socialized at a friend's
house until after 5 a.m., when I took a taxi home."
"I couldn't get near myhome because the street was blocked off by police.
As I approached home, I noticed it had been consumed by a fire. There were
no windows, nothing. Everything was black, black, black.
Then I saw the bodies on the lawn in front of our family's apartment."
The bodies were those of his mother, two sisters and brother, and Ashley Singh.
Ornela (T.J.) Etibako
8:30 A.M. - The adjacent Elementary school is closed.
Capt. Rob Jones-Cook (Fire Dept. Spokesman)
"The blaze is being treated as suspicious because of how fast it spread
through the townhouse. Investigators believe gasoline was used as an
accelerant. Police dogs were brought in to help officers investigate what
is deemed a "major crime scene."
"Witnesses reported hearing an explosion as the fire tore through the
townhouse, in the 2400 block of Cassiar Street, just before 4 a.m.
Te fire appeared to have started at the back of the unit in the social
The fire did "very extensive damage" to the three-storey townhouse,
with firefighters climbing onto the roof at one point to battle the flames.
Social services workers have been called in to help relocate people in
Classes were also cancelled for 400 students at an elementary school a
block away from the fatal fire."
Alain Musende (Close family friend)
Adela Etibako perished in the fire along with her three youngest children,
Edita, 12, Benedicta, 9 and Stephane, 8. Her son Bolingo, 16, is recovering
in hospital under police guard,"
"My six-year-old son considered Stephan Etibako (8) his big
brother and has been devastated and terrified by his friend's death.
"He wants to come to my bed, he's scared they will come to kill us,
too. He slept bad, very bad."