The family of 18-year-old Emma Machado is mourning the loss of their youngest family member after she was killed in a bus crash between Port Alberni and Bamfield, B.C., on Friday night.
Machado, a first-year student at the University of Victoria, was with her class on an annual field trip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, when the bus crashed on a logging road and rolled down an embankment.
The Machado family — including her mother, Ethel, dad, Jose and sister, Sam — are still struggling to make sense of their new reality as they prepare to travel to B.C. to collect her body.
“We were devastated, we still are, our lives will never be the same,” said Ethel MacIntosh.
MacIntosh and her husband, Jose Machado received the tragic news on Saturday morning from a Winnipeg Police officer.
“I have two daughters who are away and it never even crossed my mind that there was a problem with either of them,” she said.
‘So excited with school’
Since moving to Victoria on Sept. 1, Emma and her family had only been in touch a few times with short calls and text messages, as the teenager was excited to begin post-secondary.
“We had no idea that anything happened to the bus, we knew Emma was going on a field trip. She hadn’t talked to us a lot lately,” said MacIntosh.
“She was so excited with school. We were planning on talking to her on Sunday night.”
The Machados went to sleep on Friday night, unaware that their daughter they call the “spark of our family” was taken from them.
“We hadn’t heard anything and we didn’t have the news on at home, we were having a quiet morning at home” when they were contacted by police, said MacIntosh.
‘Why my daughter?’
In total, 17 people were taken to hospital following the crash, and Jose Machado struggles to understand why his daughter had the misfortune to be killed.
“I know what happened, but I had a hard time believing.… I see all these other kids unharmed and ask myself, ‘Why my daughter?'” he said.
Emma’s family described her as a social go-getter, someone who would take charge and often planned family night outs.
“We’re a very close family, we like to mostly do things together, Emma [was] the most sociable and outgoing of us, she was kind of our social connection to the rest of the world,” said MacIntosh.
MacIntosh said officers told her that when the bus was finally pulled out of the ravine, Emma and the other victim had fallen out of the vehicle and needed to be retrieved.
She was told her daughter suffered a skull fracture and other “non-survivable injuries.”
With questions about how and why lingering in her brain over and over, MacIntosh tries to imagine what the last few moments would have been like for her child.
“Having flown with her, she gets really scared with the turbulence and would grab our hands, so we know that she definitely was terrified while that bus was slipping off the ravine.”
As a cancer surgeon, MacIntosh has delivered bad news to dozens of patients throughout her life, but receiving it was something she was not prepared for.
“I do think that’s the worst news you can get, is it that your child has been killed and in such a way. Her body was on that bus for hours and hours.”
Then, Emma’s parents had to deliver the news of her death to their older daughter, Sam.
They called Sam’s roommates to ensure she would have someone with her as she heard the news, and then booked her flight to return home, which led to fear and panic until the moment she arrived in Winnipeg.
“I knew we had to get her home and she [then] she’s got to fly by herself for hours … so you know those are things that went though my mind,” said MacIntosh.
The age gap between the two sisters was two years, and Emma was following her older sister’s footsteps to attend post-secondary away from home.
Despite the physical distance, the bond between the two sisters was never diminished. Emma even made a visit to Halifax to keep Sam company, and the older sister relished in the opportunity to show off her new city.
“We lived together for a week and a half, we ran around the town and we loved each other a lot,” she said.
Sam said as she prepared for school and to experience the world as an adult, her sister’s humour never failed to put a smile on her face.
“When I moved to Halifax, before she moved to Victoria for school, she would tell me that you know Mom and Dad had so much attention for her because I was gone and she would joke that she wanted me to come back so they would stop bugging her,” said Sam while crying.
“She was my sister, and always will be.”
“Strong, funny, loving”
Turning eighteen represents the shift from adolescence to adulthood, but also brings with it additional responsibilities, something Machado’s family said Emma had long desired and been ready for.
“She was a strong, young woman who was just kind of hitting her stride [when she was] going away to University,” said MacIntosh. “She loved the idea of going to Victoria.”
The family had tried to convince her to go to the East coast to be closer to her sister, but with her desire to study marine biology and Earth conservation, Emma picked Victoria.
“She was really passionate about the environment, [she was] so excited to finally get a vote in an election, she wanted to make the world better,” said MacIntosh.
If you met Emma, it was easy to become friends with her, and she already had a group of friends in her new city, according to her family.
“She’d made a lot of friends … she’s a great kid, very outgoing,” said
Machado’s enthusiasm to help others was displayed in her jobs as an extended day supervisor at Balmoral Hall high school, and as a day camp leader at the Manitoba Museum.
“She loved working with children. She worked a lot after school and helped with the kindergartners and the kids loved her, and she loved them,” said MacIntosh.
The Machado family plans to hold a celebration of life to remember Emma on Sunday.