Sun, May

Shahdon Winchester of Trinidad and Tobago during the Group D 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup match between Trinidad & Tobago v Guyana at Children's Mercy Park on June 26, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

Saturday marks the first anniversary of four friends' deaths in a fiery accident, and bereaved relatives said they are still trying to accept and deal with the "nightmare."

National footballer Shahdon Winchester, 27, and Djenne Hills-Dyer, 28, as well as cousins Keston Nicholas, 22, and Michael Bradshaw, 21, died on December 19 last year.

Winchester’s mother Svetlana said her "sweet Shahdon" left a year ago, but it seems like yesterday. She told Newsday by WhatsApp that there were days she felt she could not continue living without him.

"Our home was empty, sad, and quiet. Our family’s happiness was all gone. There were sleepless nights and tear-filled days. My heart was shattered. Life had no meaning," Svetlana said. "Some days, I still cannot believe he is gone. I sometimes pretend he is away on a football contract. I send him WhatsApp messages, only I never get any response.:

Winchester, the father of one, lived with her and other relatives at Buen Intento in Princes Town, a short distance from Hills-Dyer.

Svetlana recalled crying and driving home one day and begging God to heal her pain.

"God began to heal my heart. After some days of fasting and praying, my days got easier. My beautiful and treasured granddaughter (Ada-Xyli, four years old) carries all of her father’s demeanour. Sometimes I just stare at her in amazement," Svetlana said.

She sent condolences to the parents, relatives, and friends of the three other crash victims.

She also said, "I thank my family, friends, and my co-workers, who supported me during this painful period of my life. I also lost my mother and aunt one week apart in July this year..

"I feel blessed that God chose me to raise a respectful, talented young man, Shahdon Shane Andre Winchester. I love you son. RIP."

The four friends were returning in Winchester’s SUV from a games night in Couva last year when the car veered off the highway and crashed into an electricity pole. The SUV burst into flames on impact.

Winchester’s sister Shania as well as his fiancée Tenelle Mongolas also shared fond memories of him and sent condolences to relatives of the other victims.

"My brother was the strongest person I know. He taught me life lessons and continues to do so even now that he is not here. There is nothing we did not share. The bond we had is irreplaceable," Shania said. "He was my right hand! There is a hole in me that will never be filled."

Mongolas said the tragedy has been "a total nightmare," and her life has felt like a downward spiral since.

"Prayer has given me the strength to carry on for our daughter because every day is presented with a new obstacle," Mongolas said by WhatsApp.

"Ada-Xyli is only a toddler, but she gives me strength when she looks at me and says, ‘Daddy is playing football in the sky,’ with a smile, knowing that she is proud of her father’s legacy."

Nicholas’s mother Paula Burton told Newsday it was a mother's worst nightmare to lose her only child. She said she became scared, not knowing how to deal with this level of pain. She depended on God for strategies to cope.

"I would shut myself in prayer and the Word. Another strategy is that I encourage myself, even in the midst of my tears. I tell myself that I will get through this, I will make it, I will be ok," Burton said. "I have lost my only child, my best friend. He was a gem in the community, and most of all, a blessing. I thank God for 22 beautiful years with him."

Burton, who lives at Indian Walk in Moruga, thanked family, friends and everyone else for their support.

"This year, my journey was bittersweet, but I declare that in 2021 and counting, the best is yet to come."

Hills-Dyer’s mother La Toya Hills said she had wanted to host a thanksgiving service, but owing to the pandemic, she opted not to. Instead, some of her daughter’s best friends and family will get together on Saturday evening.

"We will say a little prayer together, remembering her and remembering the good times with her. I placed an order for a wreath, and I will place it at her gravesite at Broadway tomorrow. We are not having a grand event.

Hills-Dyer owned I CEE Queen Treats, a small business. She was not married and did not have children.

"Sometimes I am in denial that the accident happened," her mother said.

Calls to Bradshaw’s relatives went unanswered.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday