'We failed': St. Vital community members raise concerns about crosswalk after boy, 8, killed

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City to expand St. Vital traffic study to include spot where schoolchild was hit and killed

Concerns are growing among parents and community members in Winnipeg's St. Vital neighbourhood after an eight-year-old boy was killed at an intersection that many in the area already believed was dangerous.

The Grade 3 student at nearby École Varennes was hit by a pickup truck on a crosswalk at St. Anne's Road near Varennes Avenue around 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Since his death, CBC News has spoken to some residents in the area who said they've had concerns about the intersection in the past.

"If it's not every day then it's every second day that people just speed up and put you in danger [at the intersection]," said Aleksander Glavonjic, whose three children attend École Varennes.

"The sad moment was preventable. But we failed as a community, as a city, as a people. We just failed."

Surveillance video reviewed by CBC News appears to show the boy and an adult getting ready to enter the crosswalk Tuesday morning. 

The video shows a car coming to a stop in the curb lane. The two step out and begin to cross the street.

Video shows feet stepping past the car and into the next traffic lane.

A truck travelling in that lane is then seen going through the crosswalk without stopping.

A second surveillance camera shows the truck has hit the boy.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, there have been, on average, five collisions per year at the intersection over the past decade, although the collisions have not involved pedestrians and there had been no fatalities in that period until Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Winnipeg police said officers hadn't responded to a single serious crash at the intersection going back to 2013.

Brian Mayes, the city councillor for the area, said a resident raised concern about the intersection with him in 2012, and suggested the crosswalk be replaced by traffic lights.

City staff studied that option at the time but recommended against it, Mayes said. But he said the city will look at the issue again.

"Maybe things have changed, maybe there's more traffic. Maybe this latest tragedy will change the consideration," Mayes said Wednesday.

Mayes said he will work to expand the scope of an already-approved traffic study to be conducted a few blocks north on St. Anne's Road. The city's public works committee approved his request for the study on Jan. 30.

"We just started talking … a few weeks ago about studying the area near here, so we're going to have to follow up on that and make sure we take a look at it," he said. "We owe it in terms of what's happened here."

A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg told CBC News in an email the city will review the results of the police investigation related to the crosswalk.

Decisions about street crossings are made by traffic engineers based on traffic flow, she said, in consultation with guidelines set by the Transportation Association of Canada.

'I felt anguish'

Jon Anderson grew up in the area and was in the drive-through at the McDonald's at the intersection with his son when the boy was hit. He said the scene was chaotic.

"I felt anguish, and I was sad, and I guess I started to cry," he said.

"But again, my biggest concern was for my son. He's 13 years old and I didn't want to put him in that situation.… I just wanted to try to get out of the area as quick as I can."

Anderson also described the intersection as dangerous and urged caution when crossing it.

"We need to kind of look in the mirror and see what we can do to make a change to make this safer for everybody," he said.

Since Tuesday, a memorial of cards, flowers and toys has grown beside the road where the boy was killed.

Debbie Owens and her granddaughter Layla Adamik, 9, stopped to add a teddy bear Wednesday afternoon. Owens said Adamik is in Grade 4 at École Varennes and knew the boy who died.

Owens said the boy's death was heartbreaking, and said she doesn't feel good about the safety of the intersection anymore.

"It's worrisome for any child now. You'll have to have a parent or better patrol there now," she said. "If you press the button, nobody watches. It's pretty scary."

'A tough day'

Officials with the Louis Riel School Division said supports will be available for students and families over the coming days.

"It's a tough day," said Lauren McCorrie, who has two children at École Varennes, including a daughter who was in a school group with the boy who died.

"I'm just hoping they're going to be OK, [everyone] at the school. I'm glad they're going to have grief people and stuff. It's just a very sad situation."

McCorrie said she usually lets her son, who is in Grade 8, take her daughter, who is in Grade 2, through the crosswalk. But after Tuesday, McCorrie intends to walk with them both for a while.

McCorrie doesn't know if much could have been done to prevent the crash.

"It was just a whole lot of wrong things at the wrong time, I think," she said. "The boy was a couple of minutes late and the crossing guard left when she was supposed to."

Const. Rob Carver said there is a possibility charges will be laid, but they're likely to be under the Highway Traffic Act rather than the Criminal Code, because the driver is co-operating.

"[Infractions under the act] can take weeks, we've seen them take months to lay, and part of that is the complexity in terms of the forensics required to rebuild and reconstruct traffic collisions," Carver said.

"There's a lot of very technical data that has to be acquired and then assembled in terms of things like coefficient of friction on the roadway, data about the vehicle, electronic and digital data and vehicle speeds and timing, that sort of thing.

"The last thing we want to do is move forward too quickly and find out that the data and the evidence we had did not support the charge and then backtrack."

Alex Forrest, head of the Winnipeg firefighters' union, said members who responded to the emergency call are also being offered extra counselling and support.

The impact felt by the firefighter paramedics doesn't compare to the family's grief, but they will still need help dealing with the trauma, he said.

"It is something each one of these firefighters will carry with them the rest of their lives," he said. "This is the situation that every firefighter dreads in their career."

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