Family determined to return body of crash victim to Cameroon



A mother of three young children is trying to raise money to send her husband’s body back to Cameroon after he was killed earlier this month in a car crash in Arnprior, Ont.

Franck Nana Ngassa, 32, died in hospital after driving his car near Baskin Drive West on May 13, according to Ontario Provincial Police.

“He was a good father,” said Josie Pichette, his wife. “His kids loved him so much. Everyone, everyone who met him, loved him. He just had one of those personalities.”

The family is trying to raise around $ 19,000 to cover the costs of her death, including returning Nana Ngassa’s body to his home in his country of Central African origin, so that his family can bury him according to local customs.

Pichette said she had discussed with her husband her strong desire to be buried in Cameroon if anything were to happen.

“All of her ancestors are buried in one place,” she said. “And that’s where he needs to go.”

‘I couldn’t breathe’

The two met at a grocery store in 2013.

Pichette said Nana Ngassa, a software engineer who moved to Canada to study at the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College, wowed her with her bubbly personality and picked up her phone number.

They married nine months later.

Josie Pichette, left, says she met Nana Ngassa at a grocery store in 2013 and they got married nine months later. (Submitted by Josie Pichette)

Car enthusiast, Nana Ngassa bought one of her dream models, a Mercedes-Benz E550, two months before the May 13 crash.

He had purchased the specific make and model for its safety features, Pichette said, but with that car in the store, he took a lender for a ride after she went to bed.

Pichette woke up and the police knocked on her door at 1 a.m.

“I couldn’t breathe. I really couldn’t breathe, ”she says.

Pichette said it had been difficult for their three children, Isaac, 6, Ethan, Makeba, 3 and 11 months, who kept asking where their father is and calling his phone.

She said she was warmed by the awareness of the Arnprior community after her husband’s death, hearing people she didn’t know knew Nana Ngassa.

This love, she said, is especially valued as people struggle with their own hardships due to COVID-19.

Outpouring of support

Pichette is now determined to bring her husband home.

Although she may not fully understand the funeral customs of Cameroon or the Bana people to whom it belonged, Pichette said she knew her husband’s family wanted to wash the body and prepare it for the afterlife.

With $ 3,000 raised so far, Pichette said she plans to remortgage her home. She also sold some of his belongings, like the treadmill he gave her for Christmas, and said his family overseas also raised money to bring him home.

“This is his last dying wish. That’s what he wanted, ”she says. “I can’t not give this to him.”


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