Orleans family mourns loss of 20-year-old Axel Karuranga

An Orleans family is mourning the loss of a son and brother; 20-year-old Axel Karuranga.

The young man, who was on the autism spectrum, died Wednesday morning when fire broke out and smoke filled his third-floor bedroom on Boake Street.

"This is a disaster, there's nothing anyone could have done; people see themselves in our shoes." said Gael Karuranga; grateful for the support his family has received from the community. The Karuranga family fled genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago and settled in Ottawa. Gael, who was not home at the time, is now preparing to say goodbye to a little brother and son who brought joy and lifted the family's spirits.

"You could always count on him to be at the door when you arrived home." said Gael. "That's something that is going to be really difficult to deal with; coming home to a home where he's not present."

Pamela Karuranga called Axel her baby boy; she said the family took turns co-parenting and helping raise the young man; who was non-verbal. Pamela noticed fire and smoke filling their home around 6:45am; she called out for her brother on the third floor but did not hear or see him.

"He loved people, he loved visitors." said Pamela. "He was our baby so I think I would just tell him I loved him and I don't know. We'd go to McDonalds." said his sister who often took him out for meals at McDonalds, watched moviesand to play at trampoline parks.

The family of Axel Karuranga mourning the loss of 20 year old Orleans man they describe as their source of energy and joy; he died in Wednesday’s house fire ⁦@ctvottawapic.twitter.com/4ki8pH0jWR

— Mike Arsalides (@MArsalidesCTV) April 6, 2019

Pamela, Michael, Gael and their mother, Jacqueline, helped raised Axel between overnight and early-morning shifts at work. Axel was home sick from school the day he died. Axel's mother was too emotional to speak on camera said her faith in God will carry the family through this tragedy as it has done before. A family friend told CTV News, the often strong mother is in pain; grieving the loss of her youngest child.

"I don’t think it will really set in until the full family is here, the ones coming from far away, and we're at the funeral or I guess the next time I really have to physically see him." said Michael Karuranga; who tried to get to Axel's bedroom but couldn't see through thick, black, suffocating smoke.

"You hear about these things, until it happens to you, you wont know." said Gael. "It comes down on you like a tonne of bricks.The family is staying at a nearby hotel, while crews clear and assess their burned home.

Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe account; which has raised more than $30-thousand in less than 3 days. Anyone who would like to help the family with costs associated with Axel's funeral can access the account here.

A celebration of life will be held for Axel Karuranga in the next week as family makes final preparations to honour his memory.