The tragic death of Gareth Coombes left many close to him stunned and grieving—few more so than his aunt Zheny Coombes.
“We’re still in a state of shock about what happened,” she explained.
Zheny went on to remember her nephew as an adventurous and intelligent young man.
“He loved to travel,” she said. “He was very gentle, but he was always thinking—probably thinking when he would go on his next adventure.”
For Gareth, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, coming to Western was part of his ambition for travel and new experiences.
“He wanted the best future, being in the university [at Western],” Zheny explained. “It was part of his adventure.”
She also went on to extol the virtues of Gareth’s lifestyle, which took him all over the world, providing him with an exceptional experience of the world. She advised Gareths’s peers to live likewise, and offered them her sympathy.
“Keep on with school. Gareth liked to be the best at everything, and go adventuring the way he did,” Zheny said. “I send my condolences to [his peers], I know Gareth was easy to love and like and I’m sure they will miss him.”
However, following the accident, Zheny encouraged students to take heed of the unfortunate choices made and make responsible decisions.
“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “I think these young people in the university, I’m sure they will miss him, and learn from what happened, and not do similar things.”
Zheny and her family are in the process of organizing a memorial to take place in Victoria.
“A memorial is certainly something we’d like to do for our closure, and for him,” she explained.
Zheny also asserted that she intends to have Gareth’s ashes buried beside those of his mother, who passed away from lung cancer.
“We want him to be buried with his mom, who we unfortunately lost in 2005,” she said.
As for students at Western, there are outlets for those who are experiencing grief from Gareth’s tragic death.
“There are some specific things set up at Ivey, but anyone beyond this particular situation is able to access counselling through Western student services,” Keith Marnoch, director of media and communications for Western, said. “There are people on alert for people who are particularly affected by the student death, and that’s a service that people can access anytime.”