Southfield: Mother of God
Chaldean Catholic Church was barely large enough to contain the
hundreds of mourners who attended a funeral Mass Friday honoring
two West Bloomfield children who died Sunday in a tubing
accident on Sylvan Lake.
The services come as authorities’ conduct a
preliminary investigation into the fatal accident in which
Alexander Mansour, 11, and little sister, Gabrielle, 6, were
struck by a boat as their father John Mansour pulled them in a
tube behind a Jet Ski on Sylvan Lake. Both Alexander and
Gabrielle died following the accident. A third sibling,
10-year-old Adriana, remains hospitalized with severe injuries.
Vehicles began filing into the church on Berg
Road about an hour before the Mass which began at noon. By 11:45
a.m., the large parking lot behind the church was full, and
Southfield Police officers blocked the lot’s two entrances.
Churchgoers parked on side streets, in some cases
several blocks away, and trekked in the 92-degree heat, most of
them wearing black clothes and somber expressions.
“It’s a terrible thing, what happened to those
children,” said Larry Yaldoo, who lives three houses away from
the Mansours. “We pray for them.”
Since the accident, Metro Detroit’s Chaldean
community has united in grief for the family, with members of
churches in Troy, Oak Park and Sterling Heights praying for
minutes after Friday’s Mass was scheduled to begin, an ambulance
arrived and an emergency worker treated one of the mourners. A
police officer on the scene said the person had collapsed,
probably from the heat, but that there appeared to be no serious
officials had asked the media to not cover the services inside
the church, which The News honored, speaking to people across
the street from the church.
“It was very packed inside,” said Najwan Cholagh, who said she
was “best friends” with the Mansour family. “They opened up a
different room and we watched the Mass on television.
“The priest said because the parents have been
unable to talk, he talked for them,” she said. “He thanked
everybody and said to pray for the other daughter who’s still in
Robert Hasbany appeared shaken as he walked out of the church.
“I live right there on the lake,” he said. “I had
just left home (when the accident happened). I’m friends with
(the driver of the boat that hit the children). I’ve been trying
to get a hold of him, but nobody’s been home. He’s a beautiful
person; I’m sure he feels just terrible about it.”
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which is
investigating the deaths, said the incident was being considered
tube behind a Jet Ski is legal but a preliminary investigation
found the watercraft was not occupied by an independent
“spotter” as required by law.
Using a spotter is considered a critical safety measure and
failing to have a spotter is a ticket able offense, officials
the driver of the other boat, a 56-year-old Sylvan Lake man who
was alone at the time of the incident, has told investigators he
saw the Jet Ski but wasn’t aware it was pulling a tube with
children behind it. The results of physical testing, including
toxicology of the boater, could take a month or two to complete.
Investigators have been trying to determine if
the watercraft were traveling counter-clockwise around the lake,
initial report was that the Jet Ski was southbound on the lake,
when the boat traveling east drove over the tow line and tube
carrying the three children.
Witnesses said the lake was exceptionally busy with boat traffic
on Sunday. Since the accident, however, that’s changed, Hasbany
“I was on the
lake last night, and there was only one or two other boats,” he
said. “There’s been a big difference (since the accident);
usually that’s a busy, private lake. People will probably stay
away for a few days until they get comfortable enough to go on
the lake again.”
Anyone who may have
witnessed the accident is asked to call investigators at (248)
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