MONTREAL - As he scanned an album packed with photos of his seven children enjoying family vacations of the past, Mohammed Shafee broke down while pondering the present.
Three of Shafee's daughters, and the woman who helped raise all of his kids, died Tuesday when their vehicle tumbled into a canal in eastern Ontario.
The devastated father searched for answers Friday, but couldn't shake his unease that the crash may have been the result of his eldest daughter's penchant for taking the family car without permission.
"No driving lessons, no good to drive," the Afghan native said through a thick accent in an interview at his Montreal home, where he repeatedly spoke about his daughter's limited experience behind the wheel.
The bodies of the sisters - Geeti, 13, Sahar, 17, and Zainab Shafia, 19 - and Shafee's cousin, Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, were found in a submerged car at the bottom of a lock on the Rideau Canal in Kingston.
The family was returning from five days in Niagara Falls, Ont., and had stopped for the night at a Kingston hotel to break up the drive to Montreal.
Shafee awoke early Tuesday morning to discover that one of the family cars was missing from the hotel's parking lot.
He then checked the room where the three girls and Amir Mohammed were staying. They, too, had vanished.
"At 7:30, sleeping finished, go to check, no more car, no more three daughters, no more cousin," Shafee said, adding he has no clue why they all left in the car without telling him or his wife.
Zainab didn't have a driver's permit, but her father said she frequently snatched his keys so she could start one of the two family vehicles.
While they were vacationing in Niagara Falls, she even started one of his vehicles without her father's consent and accidentally backed it into a parked car.
The night she died, Zainab asked her mother for the keys to their black Nissan sedan, claiming she wanted to put something inside.
"My daughter come to (her) mother, 'Give me car keys, me take,"' Shafee said.
The family, who hail from Kabul, Afghanistan, moved to Canada two years ago after living in Dubai.
While Shafee spoke about his family, the girls' mother, Tobba Yahya, paced nervously from room to room in their modest four-bedroom duplex in the city's St-Leonard borough.
She cried uncontrollably as she talked to someone on a cordless phone.
"They loved me, they loved (their) father," Yahya said in a later interview as she fought back tears.
"I come back, my home is empty."
Yahya said the family moved to Canada to start a better life.
"I came (to) Canada for my children because Afghanistan was unsteady - no safety," she said. "But here, a future."
The children all learned to speak French and English since arriving in Montreal and had even adapted to the harsh winters, their mother said.
Yahya boasted about Sahar's academic success, saying how much her daughter dreamed of becoming a doctor.
But Shafee said the deaths abruptly silenced what had always been a bustling, happy home.
Before the crash, he and Yahya had seven children aged eight to 19 years old.
Shafee said his wife and their four other kids - two boys and two girls - have been crying for days.
On Thursday night, he slept for the first time since the bodies were discovered - for two hours - and said nobody in the family has really eaten anything in three days.
"Only water," said Shafee, 58, who ran an electronics business in Kabul and Dubai before arriving in Canada.
"(It hurts) very bad."