‘I have lost three kids’: Parents utterly shattered
They were siblings and cousins enjoying each other's company on a hot summer night's walk when the unthinkable happened.
Just as they wandered past a golf club at Oatlands on Bettington Rd in Sydney's northwest their world collided with allegedly drunk driver Samuel William Davidson, 29, whose ute mowed them down at about 8pm.
Antony Abdallah, 13, his little sisters Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 8, along with their cousin Veronique Sakr, 11, died just around the corner from their home. A further three children from the same extended family - an 11-year-old boy and two girls aged 10 and 13 - were taken to the Children's Hospital at Westmead where the boy remains in a coma.
Danny Abdallah, 41, the father of the three siblings, broke down at the scene of the crash yesterday and dropped to his knees.
"This morning I woke up - I have lost three kids," he said. "I had a cousin, she lost her daughter as well. I don't know what to say. I'm numb."
Neighbours had rushed to perform CPR on the children until paramedics arrived.
Seasoned police officers were moved to tears by the scene that met them and will receive counselling.
Distraught family members, including the Abdallah children's mother Leila Geagea, and friends gathered by a growing floral memorial yesterday.
A shattered Mrs Abdallah dropped to her knees to pray while a man collapsed.
"Why? Why?" another woman screamed.
Mr Abdallah said the children were all related and in the care of his aunt while the family were at a 21st birthday party.
They were going for a "casual walk at sunset and would come back before the sun drops".
"They were going for a walk, an evening walk together and I was very clear on telling them to stay together and on the footpath," he said.
"I told them to go for a walk, a little walk and stay together. 'You guys should be OK', give them a little independence and this is a one-in-a-million chance thing."
He echoed the fears of every parent in Australia when they heard the news.
"All I just want to say is please, drivers, be careful. These kids were just walking innocently, enjoying each others' company," he said. "Please, just make sure you loved your loved ones, your kids especially, because you don't know when."
Mr Abdallah, a builder, and his family are well known in the close-knit Maronite Catholic community. He said he loved raising his young children with wife, Leila, 34.
"We had six kids 10 years and under, it was beautiful, we loved it, it wasn't a problem," he said.
"That was my full-time job, I always say I was a full-time father, part-time worker - they were my priority. And now they're gone."
He paid tribute to his children.
"Antony is 13, very handsome boy and he loved basketball, he woke up that morning and said 'we're going to play this game for Kobe (Bryant)'," he said. "Angelina, she was my MLH - my little helper. Anything I needed, she had my back. And Sienna, she was my little diva, my little actress.
"They've gone to a better place."
Veronique's family said in a statement: "We are devastated by the tragic and senseless loss of our beautiful girl.
"Words cannot describe the pain we feel for all the families impacted by this tragedy.
"Veronique was a vibrant 11-year-old girl, full of life, love and had a maturity well beyond her young years."
Police Minister and Baulkham Hills MP David Elliott wrote on Twitter: "The news of the deaths and injury to a group of children riding their bikes tonight is absolutely heartbreaking.
"As if this summer hasn't caused enough heartache."
HEARTBROKEN SCHOOL MATES UNITED IN GRIEF
Shattered classmates and friends of the Abdallah children have paid their respects at a special gathering.
Students, parents and teachers from The King's School and Tara Anglican School for Girls gathered in Tara's chapel in North Parramatta on Sunday afternoon to mourn the deaths of Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 8.
Tara principal Susan Middlebrook told The Daily Telegraph opening up the chapel to both King's School families and Tara families to come together "felt like the right thing to do".
"We thought it was important to do so people had a place to go," she said. "Our school communities are really tight and people needed to come to a place where they knew the (Abdallah) girls and Antony and be together as families."
King's principal Tony George said the crash was an "affront" to both school communities, who felt "a real mixture of despair, anger and frustration" towards the alleged actions of driver 29-year-old Samuel Davidson.
"This is a time for grief and mourning, but what has (allegedly) happened isn't just sad and devastating, it's an affront," he said. "I can't for a moment begin to imagine what (the Abdullah and Sakr) families are going through right now. This can never be forgotten, and it will leave it's imprint on both our school communities."
- Kaitlyn Hudson-O'Farrell & Derrick Krusche
PARISH URGED TO KEEP THE FAITH FOR DISTRAUGHT PARENTS
A priest at the church attended by the families of the children who died in the Oatlands crash says his entire parish has been left heartbroken by the mass tragedy.
The Abdallah, Sakr and Kassas families all regularly attend Our Lady of Lebanon in Harris Park, near Parramatta.
The church's dean, Father Tony Sarkis, told The Daily Telegraph on Sunday that he was left shocked by the harrowing incident.
"The horrific accident that took place last night in Oatlands has tragically affected the lives of three families from our parish and the entire parish community," Father Sarkis said.
"Sadly … three children from the Abdallah family, - Anthony, Angelina and Sienna - and one child from the Sakr family - Veronique - lost their lives, while three other children remain in hospital: the sister of the Abdallah children and her two cousins from the Kassas family."
Mr Sarkis said all three families have played an active role in the Maronite church.
"All three families are members of our parish community and regularly attend mass on Sunday along with other spiritual, pastoral and social events," he said.
"Danny Abdallah has been a very big supporter of the parish for many years and his family is very devoted to their Maronite catholic faith.
"We have been supporting the family since we heard the tragic news last night through our prayers and masses firstly and through our ongoing support by their side.
"This heartbreaking event has touched the hearts of all the community and we ask everyone to continue to pray for the three families."
Our Lady of Lebanon in Harris Park is the largest Maronite catholic parish in Australia.
- Derrick Krusche