Trinidad: Young father says he fought to save son after car exploded

Justin Francette at his Cito Lane, Tabaquite, home yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) “I didn’t kill my son,” Justin Francette whis­pered yes­ter­day as he re­count­ed how he fought to free his dy­ing son from the flames that en­gulfed his car fol­low­ing an ex­plo­sion on Fri­day.

Prince Francette, 3, died af­ter suf­fer­ing burns to 100 per cent of his body.

Francette, 22, who was in­ter­viewed at his home on Cito Lane, Tabaquite, where the ac­ci­dent oc­curred, de­nied that his son had fall­en asleep in the car. He said Prince was play­ing on the back seat when the car ex­plod­ed. The force of the ex­plo­sion flung him about 10 feet away, while Prince re­mained trapped in­side the car.

Francette could not hold back the tears as he said: “Peo­ple say­ing I kill my son but this is not true. I tried my best to save him. He was my life. I love him like I nev­er loved any­one else. There were two things I loved, my son and my car and now both are gone.”

The car in which the infant was burnt.

He said he has not been able to sleep and is haunt­ed by videos of his son’s dy­ing mo­ments which have been post­ed on so­cial me­dia.

Francette and his wife, Maria Granger, sep­a­rat­ed af­ter on­ly six months af­ter mar­riage when Prince was just a few months old. On the day the child died, Francette said he took Prince to en­rol him at the Tabaquite Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tist pre-school.

“He was com­ing to live with me soon. He loved stick­ing up un­der me. Any­thing I was do­ing he was there help­ing me,” he said.

On the day of the ac­ci­dent, Francette said he spent the day play­ing and hav­ing fun with his son.

“His hair had got­ten loose and he said, ‘Dad­dy come and comb my hair, look how ug­ly I look­ing’,” Francette re­called.

He said he braid­ed his son’s hair and showed him how hand­some he was in the mir­ror.

Short­ly af­ter­wards, Francette went out­side to work on the Nis­san March he had pur­chased the day be­fore. He said Prince clam­bered in­side the car.

Dianna Stewart-Garcia recalls the moments she spent with her grandson three-year-old Prince Francette who lost his life when his father’s car exploded.

“I was there with him. He was hap­py and smil­ing. Then I no­ticed a small bit of fire in the back seat in the area where the gas tank is. Be­fore I could pull him out, the whole car ex­plod­ed, pitch­ing me out.”

Francette said he tried to open the door to get to Prince but it was jammed.

“I tried to break the glass. I bawled for my moth­er to come. She was bathing. Then I freaked out on the ground,” he said.

He said neigh­bours came and start­ed throw­ing wa­ter in the car as the dy­ing tod­dler whim­pered.

“While I lay there on the ground, I could hear my son cry­ing,” he said.

The boy’s grand­moth­er, Di­ana Stew­art-Gar­cia, said they called an am­bu­lance and the para­medics ad­vised them not to move the boy or touch him be­cause his clothes could get stuck on­to his skin. Stew­art-Gar­cia said it took 45 min­utes for the am­bu­lance to ar­rive. Doc­tors tried in vain to save the tod­dler but he died.

Stew­art-Gar­cia said she was hor­ri­fied that in their mo­ment of trau­ma, some­one close to them record­ed the or­deal and post­ed it on so­cial me­dia.

“Please peo­ple, have a heart. Have a lit­tle love in your heart. In­stead of try­ing to help us in some way, you de­cide to tape it? And then you post it?

“Peo­ple to­day try to mash up re­la­tion­ships rather than to save re­la­tion­ships. No­body knows what we go­ing through now. It feels like a dream. I am hap­py he was with us when he died. He was hap­py with us. We loved him and he loved us,” she said.

Stew­art-Gar­cia said she wants Na­tion­al Fam­i­ly Ser­vices to pro­vide coun­selling for the fam­i­ly. She said Francette is in­con­solable and her nine-year-old son Cur­tis and daugh­ter, Callana Gar­cia, were trau­ma­tized af­ter see­ing their nephew burnt alive.

Po­lice said an au­top­sy will be done to­mor­row. Of­fi­cers from the Bras­so po­lice sta­tion, in­clud­ing Cpl Combs and PC’s Singh and Jones, are con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

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