By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Ottawa Police are mourning the loss of one of their own after longtime Barrhaven resident Vijayalayan Mathiyalaghan died in a motorcycle incident on June 14.
The 28-year-old sustained critical injuries when the motorcycle he was driving crashed on eastbound Regional Road 174, near the junction with Highway 417. Paramedics arrived at the scene around 8:30 pm that night, but he later died in hospital from his injuries.
“He was a kind, friendly and gentle young man and was hired as a police officer in November 2020,” the Ottawa Police Services said in a statement. “He went through Algonquin College Police Foundations and served in the military for several years as a stepping stone to becoming a police officer. This has been exceptionally difficult for those closest to him and our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”
Ottawa Police Association interim president Brian Samuel said many in the community are mourning Mathiyalaghan’s loss.
“(He) had only been with us a short period but his generosity and good nature have left an indelible impression,” he said. “We mourn the passing of our friend; we will miss his presence. The loss of someone so early in their career – what might he have become, what contributions to our police community would he have made.”
Mathiyalaghan, known to his friends as Vijay, spent much of his upbringing in Barrhaven, going to Berrigan Elementary School. He also went to Sir Winston Churchhill for middle school and then went off to Merivale High School.
Born in Sri Lanka, Mathiyalaghan and his family moved to Ottawa when he was eight, and later settled into a Barrhaven townhouse. Friends tell the Barrhaven Independent he recently purchased a home in Riverside South for his parents and gave a large portion of his salary to his family. He took overtime shifts, often worked seven days a week, and always had a deep passion for his community.
Active in the local South East Asian community, Mathiyalaghan had a love for motorcycles, purchasing his first bike in 2015 and was involved with the Ottawa Police Hoopstars basketball program. He was a big gym rat and used to be a regular at the former YMCA Gym in Merivale Mall.
The longtime Barrhaven resident joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2011 as a combat engineer with the reserve force. He moved up to the rank of Corporal, and then served five years in the reserve force before transferring to the regular force in 2016. He worked out of CFB Petawawa in the explosive ordnance disposal department. In early 2018, he was deployed to Ukraine to teach Ukraine soldiers on proper mine clearance and safe disposal of unexploded ordnance. Those skills are now saving lives as war ravages through that country.
Constable Niloy Ahmed, who was recruited to the Ottawa Police alongside Vjay in the fall of 2020, said they instantly hit it off after being introduced through a mutual friend.
Emotion of the loss still raw days after his passing, Ahmed spoke in present tense during his interview with this newspaper.
“He’s contagious, he’s energetic, his energy is uplifting and it’s going to be really greatly missed,” Ahmed said in a phone interview during a pre Canada Day shift at LeBreton flats. ‘It’s very rare to meet these types of people. Whoever is around him could feel his aurora and big shock of positivity.”
Mathiyalaghan and Ahmed shared similar interests and dreams. They both loved working out, with Mathiyalaghan being a regular at 613 Lift. He was big into powerlifting, went to the gym every day, and had a deep focus on healthy eating.
The two Ottawa Police Officers were in separate platoons so didn’t have the chance to work together on the regular. But on days off they’d try to score extra shifts in each other’s department so they could do the job they loved together.
“We shared a really similar mentality and worked really hard. I’d take an overtime shift whenever available so we could work together a few times,” Ahmed said. “We hung out at work, we were able to talk and be in our own police vehicles which we always dreamed about. In that moment we went ‘wow, we worked so hard and reached our dream.’”
One day during an overtime shift, the pair was going car to car, discussing calls that were coming in and debriefing the situation. Mathiyalaghan received a priority call and had to leave in a hurry.
“As he was backing out his car he destroyed my mirror,” recalled Ahemd. “We were really new and we didn’t want to get in trouble. We swore we wouldn’t tell anybody. I wish I had many more opportunities to work with Vjay together.”
On Sunday, June 19, well over 1,000 family members, friends, and colleagues packed the Capital Funeral Home and Cemetery on Prince of Wales Drive to remember Mathiyalaghan. It was standing room only as loved ones shared stories of a man that meant so much to so many. It was a similar situation on Thursday, June 23, when a similar visitation was held, followed by cremation.
His obituary said Mathiyalaghan “was the embodiment of a true patriot.” His passion and dedication to service had no limits, and had a larger than life presence in more ways than one.
“He lived by a motto of living his life with no limits and accomplished anything he set his mind to,” his obituary read. “As he would say, “Dreams do come true.””
Ahmed questions what that dream would have translated into if he had more time on this earth, and what more good Mathiyalaghan could do. He wants everyone to remember his loving friend as someone who approached every situation with the right intentions.
“I want people to remember his smile. His smile was one of the most contagious smiles out there,” said Ahmed. ‘When he went into a room and he brought that smile, it could make your day from one of the worst days of your life to one of the best days of your life. He’s one of the hardest working guys I know. He’s a role model for every person who wants to be a police officer and was a great role model for the Barrhaven community. Everything he did was for the right intention.”