Leighton family prepares to move forward

After two difficult weeks the Leighton family is planning to memorialize their son Eric and work together to move forward from the tragedy that took his life nearly three years ago.

After so many questions had gone unanswered for such a long time they said they feel they can close the chapter on finding out what happened to Eric and move on to celebrating his life and grieving his loss.

"What this whole inquest, for us, was about was to make the recommendations to make the other children safer in the schools and also our answers to what happened that day to our son. We've almost gone three years without knowing," said Sheri Leighton, Eric's mother.

She said on the first day of testimony at the inquest she learned for the first time that day that her son had not suffered because the injuries that claimed his life had rendered him immediately unconscious. She said that brought her a great deal of comfort.

But, that was just the first day of what would be seven days of testimony about the circumstances that lead to her son's death.

Now that the inquest jury has officially ruled Eric Leighton's death was an accident and made 22 recommendations to keep schools safer, the Leightons feel they've been given exactly what they were looking for.

The couple spent nearly three years fighting for this inquest to take place, desperate for information about exactly how their son was killed and demanding changes to make sure this never happens to another child.

If implemented these safety recommendations should achieve just that. It is likely they will be adopted because they're based on changes already made at the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

Pat Leighton said knowing this part is over is a huge relief.

"It's like I can breathe again. It feels like a bit of a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. I think we spoke well for Eric, I think the jury spoke well for Eric and I think he'd be proud of us," he said.

Sheri Leighton said she wants people to remember her son as a happy-go-lucky child with a smile on his face all the time.

"It didn't matter who was in front of him or what he was always the centre of the party, more or less, if you want to say that," she said.

"He was my son that I miss, miss, miss tremendously," said Sheri Leighton.

Her focus now will be on planning a memorial for the third anniversary of his death. The family plans to release lanterns into the air at 7:40, the exact time that Eric Leighton was officially declared dead.

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