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'We all are heartbroken': Community mourns teens killed in Burnaby crash

A candlelight vigil for Yabsrat Ytatek, 17, and Samir Ali, 18, drew hundreds to the crash site on 10th Avenue Monday.

The Lower Mainland Ethiopian community rallied in Burnaby this week to support the families of two young men killed after their car collided with another vehicle reportedly fleeing from police.

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered on 10th Avenue near Sixth Street where the smashed Toyota Yaris occupied by Vancouver’s Samir Olyad Suleiman Ali, 18, and Burnaby’s Yabsrat Habtamu Ytatek, 17, had come to rest after the deadly collision at about 11 p.m. on July 26.

The pair had been coming home from a soccer practice in New Westminster.

“We all are saddened. We all are heartbroken,” said Jemal Kurtu, a neighbour and close friend of the Ali family.

Both teens were firstborn sons of large families, and Kurtu described them as leaders in the Ethiopian community to which they both belonged.

Ytatek came to Canada with his family as a refugee via Somalia eight years ago.

He was preparing to enter Grade 12 at Byrne Creek Community School in the fall.

A talented athlete, he had had his heart set on earning a soccer scholarship and eventually playing professionally.

He was the oldest of five siblings.

“Yabsrat was a great older brother and role model. I’m very proud of the man that he became,” his younger brother Teka told the crowd.

Bal Dhillon, Byrne Creek’s community school coordinator, remembered the first time he met Ytatek at the school.

“Right away, I noticed he had a really big smile, and that smile lit up a room, any room he walked into,” Dhillon said at the vigil.

Ali came to Canada with his family as a refugee via Kenya five years ago.

He was the oldest of nine siblings and the “light and hope of the family,” according to Moges Seblehiwot, founder of Ethiopian Affairs in BC and an organizer of the vigil.

Ali had earned a full scholarship to UBC and was preparing start his studies in kinesiology in the fall, with plans to pursue graduate studies after that, according to Kurtu.

“He was a guy who has a big goal. He was a symbol for all our kids,” Kurtu said.

Seblehiwot said his group organized the vigil to support for the families and show them “they’re not alone.”

He encouraged people at the event to contribute to GoFundMe campaigns launched in the boys’ names.

“We can’t reverse the situation,” Seblehiwot told the crowd. “We know we can’t get them back, but we can pray, we can help them in finance. They are in deep pain, they are in agony.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor