Dubai: He loved life in the fast lane. And in the end it cost him his life.
The full throttle of the bright canary yellow Ferrari that had thrilled Mohammad Ghazi Vahedna on many adrenaline-soaked drives in the past, was the cause of his death.
The 20-year-old, who had come from the UK to spend Ramadan with his family, died in front of his brother in a horrific car crash when the Ferrari hit a palm tree in Motor City on July 13.
“My mother is in shock and none of us can believe he’s gone,” Hashim Vahedna, 16, told XPRESS a day after he lost his elder sibling.
The two were on their way home from a late night karting session at the Dubai Autodrome last Saturday when Ghazi’s car spiralled out of control and overturned.
Hashim was riding ahead of Ghazi in another car driven by a friend. They were heading to Motor City to pick up dinner.
“I was in another car with my driving instructor Ramez Azzam — who was also Ghazi’s university friend — with Ghazi just behind us. Suddenly we saw him overtake us and hit the kerb of a sharp bend. The impact was such that the car flipped a couple of times before coming to a rest a fair distance away. It all happened in a flash in front of our eyes,” recalled Hashim, who is also a race enthusiast.
“We rushed to the car which was now on fire. I could only see his leg dangling out because the smoke and fire were so intense. People at a local shisha bar rushed out to help and tried to douse the blaze with fire extinguishers. The fire did die for a moment, before everything went up in flames. However, we had enough time to pull him out of the car,” said Hashim who studies in grade 11 at St. Mary’s in Dubai.
“The police and ambulance arrived within minutes. However, before they arrived, I made him lie on the ground in an attempt to get a response out of him, but he had already gone cold. He was bleeding from his ears and head. The paramedics tried to revive him in the ambulance, but to no avail,” recounts his friend Ramez Azzam, 22, who was driving in his brand new BMW with Hashim.
“I have been professionally racing since I was 15, but I have never seen something like this. The way the car caught fire was unbelievable. The heat was so intense we felt it even inside my car, parked 100 metres from the spot,” said Azzam who first met Ghazi at the Middlesex University in Dubai three years ago and was due to share a flat with him in London where Ghazi was studying after his foundation year.
Not the first time
“He wasn’t driving his dad’s Ferrari for the first time. He had taken it out many times and he is a fairly good driver with great control. I have seen him karting so many times. He loved racing, he loved speed, but perhaps the only time he lost control, it proved fatal,” added the Canadian of Palestinian origin.
According to the family, Ghazi was declared dead on arrival at the Rashid Hospital in Dubai.
“He died of trauma. He also had head injuries as he hit a tree with his car. He died even before he could be treated,” his father, Faisal Vahedna, told XPRESS hours before readying to fly his son’s body home to Mumbai, India. Faisal heads the multi-million dirham eponymous Vahedna Gulf and Vahedna Middle East.
“I guess it was fate. He wasn’t supposed to be here in Dubai, but we thought it would be nice to have him over for Ramadan. But who knew he was destined to be with us for such a short time,” said the self-made business tycoon.
“About a week before that, we took a trip to Amsterdam — the first family trip in years,” said the distraught father.
Vahedna said he kept getting signals all the time. “Even on the morning he died, I was surprised at the long conversation he had with his grandmother. He usually spoke fleetingly with her, but on that day I had to knock on his door twice to ask for my phone which he was using to make the call.
“He lost his grandfather [my father] on July 17 last year. Just three days under a year separate their deaths and now the two will rest next to each other in Mumbai,” Faisal told XPRESS.
“The evening he died, he led our prayers before iftar and read the duaa, something that he never normally does. I was surprised even more when he took me out for a drive later around the marketplace. Perhaps he had an inkling,” said the 50-year-old.
Ghazi’s friends remember him as a bright, helpful and nice person. His childhood friend, Nabeel Ebrahim, 21, studying at the University of Exeter, said, “It feels unreal. I still think he’ll walk into the house and start getting up to his antics or speed down the road just to announce his presence. He was larger than life. He literally lived like he was in a movie script.”
Shruthi Nair, 19, who attended the same high school as Ghazi and who is now studying in Australia, said: “[He was] such a sweet guy. He would never fail to help a friend. As a matter of fact he’d prioritise his friends over anyone. It’s sad he died the way he did. He will be genuinely missed by the Scholars Batch of 2010, it’ll never be complete without him.”
Wassim Hamadah, head of the Marketing Department, Middlesex University Dubai, said: “The Middlesex community is in complete shock at the news of this terrible tragedy. Vahedna was a good student and had enrolled in the Foundation Programme at our Dubai campus in 2011-12 academic year. In September last year, after successfully completing his studies here, he transferred to our London campus where he had just finished his first year of an honours degree in International Business. Every indication we had pointed to a promising future for Ghazi. This makes this loss of life particularly difficult to understand. Our deepest condolences go out to his parents, relatives and family members. Many members of our Middlesex community who interacted with him mourn his loss and cherish the memories of his time spent at our campus.”
Karan Sethi, 23, another of Ghazi’s friends who now works for his family business in Uganda, could not contain his shock. “He was one of the most generous people I knew. He would drop me in Sharjah even though it was out of the way for him and we hardly knew each other. It was on those drives that we became good friends. He loved his family and treated his friends also like family.
“He was fearless. That was clearly evident through his love for cars. His Ferrari was like his child. Once it almost touched the pavement, and he got really upset. He had this need for speed. It is so sad that he had to die driving what he loved. He was my best friend. He loved everyone. I’m in shock.”
Divya Malhan, a 21-year old PR executive, said, “He was one of the most selfless people I knew. Whenever I needed anything, he was there for me no matter how busy he was. He loved speed and cars and I cannot believe this is how it had to end. He will forever be missed.”
Ghazi’s father is still coming to terms with the tragedy. “He’s gone [to a world] where he’s getting what I couldn’t have given him. In this holy month of Ramadan, he has achieved shahadat (Urdu for martyrdom). Only a Ghazi (warrior) could have done that.”
(With inputs from Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter, and Tanya Kewalramani, Intern)