By: Sarah Newton

Youssef Hazzi, 20, poses for a photo in hospital following the accident that left him with a gash on his head and ongoing shoulder pain. His grandmother’s cousin, who was driving the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Some say he is lucky to be alive. Egyptian-born Youssef Hazzi, 20, was in Canada for only a week before a collision with a moose on Highway 417 sent him to hospital and took the life of his grandmother’s cousin.

On Nov. 14 Mounir Hamaoui, 68, was driving to Ottawa from Montreal along an unlit part of the highway between the Anderson and Walkley Road exits when he spotted the animal.

The silver Hyundai struck the moose on the passenger side as Hamaoui swerved to avoid it. His car rolled and came to rest upside-down in a ditch along the side of the road.

“Minutes ago, before the accident, [Hamaoui] asked me if I wanted to drive, in his place,” said Hazzi, who will be studying animation at Algonquin College in January.

“I said ‘no,’ but now I think: ‘what if I was driving and he passed?’ … People tell me, ‘Thank God you’re alive.’ Why do I thank Him I’m alive? If He wanted me, He could have just taken me.”

Hazzi called 911 following the accident, all while suspended upside-down by his seatbelt.

Unsure of the extent of his injuries, he texted his girlfriend back home to tell her that he loved her.

He had to wait 35 minutes before being taken to the hospital, but was released with only superficial wounds including a cut on his head and ongoing pain in his shoulders.

The moose, which was estimated by a representative for the Ottawa paramedic service to weigh around 270 kg, was killed as a result of the accident.

“I hope at least someone made a barbeque out of it,” Hazzi said. “I don’t like harming animals, so if he died anyway someone should do something about it.”

Hazzi only met his grandmother’s cousin a couple times before while living in Egypt, and said Hamaoui was a “nice guy.”

The accident was not Hazzi’s first experience with loss, however.

Two of his best friends were killed in a car accident over three years ago.

“I felt very shocked,” he said. “I felt very alone for some time.”

Hazzi said his accident has made him think.

Though he had only worn his seatbelt a handful of times before the accident, he now says he won’t get into a car without putting one on.

A devoted boy scout for the last 15 years, he has a positive outlook on his future, and plans to go back to Egypt to put his education to good use.

“I want to go back to Egypt one day and I want to teach art to young kids, small kids, in a very comic way,” he said.
J.P. Trottier, public information officer with the Ottawa paramedic service, said that many large-animal collisions with moose or deer happen this time of year.

It is mating season for the animals and they also wander while foraging for food. Trottier offered a word of caution for student drivers.

“Deer are attracted to headlights, and they’ll jump right in front of you,” he said. “It happens in the blink of an eye.”