Coroner clears driver of snowplow that killed 8-year-old girl in Quebec City in December

A coroner has ruled that the December death of an 8-year-old girl struck by a snowplow in Quebec City was accidental.

However, Denise McManiman is recommending Quebec's auto insurance board, the SAAQ, make an effort to warn children about the dangers of playing near snow-removal vehicles.

Michelle Solaye Mane Chutouo was playing with a friend in a parking lot shared by several residential buildings at around noon on Dec. 1 while two snow-removal vehicles were clearing snow left by a recent storm.  

In her report, McManiman said soon after Michelle's friend was called in for lunch, a witness saw Michelle run behind one of the snowplows. That's when she was hit. 

Paramedics arrived quickly, but were unable to revive the girl, who had suffered a severe brain injury.

Even though it is not mandatory in Quebec, the vehicle's audible alarm was activated as it reversed, the report states. The vehicle was a Caterpillar 930K wheel loader, which weighs roughly 13,000 kilograms.

The driver, a 36-year-old man, had eight years' experience, was properly licensed and was not listening to music at the time of the incident.

He owned the vehicle and had not consumed any medication, alcohol or drugs that could have affected his driving, the report says.

The coroner considered the driver's field of vision, mirrors and blind spots extensively, but concluded it would not have been possible for him to see everything in back or on the sides of the vehicle.

Because of the limited field of vision, "it becomes more important to remind all pedestrians, and especially children, to quickly get out of the way of such vehicles, particularly when an alarm indicates it is going to reverse," the report says

Children are particularly at risk around snow removal operations because they play in the snow, McManiman wrote.