CTV Exclusive: Parents sit and talk about their beloved son
The parents of 18-year-old Eric Leighton shared their memories and heartache with CTV Ottawa Friday morning. Patrick and Sheri Leighton remember their son as a person who could turn grief into glee with just a smile.
"He can take an angry room and make it a happy room," said Leighton's father. "I've heard from coaches after coaches what a great kid he was to deal with. Never talked back – always was polite and just his smile."
Patrick says his son's smile was worth a million dollars, and that is how he wants him remembered.
"That's an easy thing, anyone who knows Eric will remember him that way," he said.
"He had a passion to help people no matter who they were," said Leighton's mother Sheri. "But as Pat said his smile and willingness to do anything for anybody…"
Sheri broke down in tears while being interviewed by CTV Ottawa's John Hua. She said "right now I only have half a heart because the other half is gone with my son."
Leighton's parents said their wish is to celebrate his life by helping others cope with his death.
"It's just not the way I wanted my boy to go," said Sheri. "It was just too soon and too tragic to deal with."
Leighton was making a barbecue in shop class at Mother Teresa High School Thursday morning.
There was an explosion and he died around 8 o'clock that evening in hospital – his family by his side.
His younger sister Kaitlyn was at school just two classrooms away when the blast went off.
"We heard a really loud bang," said Kaitlyn. "My friends kind of just looked at each other and laughed because we thought it was just desks falling or something."
Kaitlyn said school staff didn't tell her it was Eric who had been the most badly hurt.
"I just had this gut feeling and when I left student services all the kids just looked at me and I just knew," she said. "A couple students were pointing saying that's Kaitlyn, Eric's little sister."
Kaitlyn said she broke down and lost control when she overheard his name on a walkie-talkie.
"I was put in a room and they wouldn't tell me if it was my brother," she said.
Now his family wants answers.
"Why would a school have a combustible material with kids working on it with sparks, tools…flames?" said Patrick. "Why was that even in the classroom? There were all kinds of precautions that could've been taken."
Despite the unanswered questions, Leighton's family said they are drawing on him for strength.
His dad said "he's going to be dearly missed; there's a lot of stuff I didn't get to do with him."
With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua