Memorial grows at site where UBC students were killed by vehicle that mounted campus sidewalk

·3 min read
Flowers are pictured on Monday at a memorial for two UBC students who were struck and killed by a vehicle on the sidewalk of Northwest Marine Drive. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Flowers are pictured on Monday at a memorial for two UBC students who were struck and killed by a vehicle on the sidewalk of Northwest Marine Drive. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A small memorial for two teenage students killed by a vehicle at the University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus began to slowly grow on Monday, as fellow students and faculty grapple with the tragedy and questions of whether it could have been prevented.

Mourners and passersby came to the sidewalk one by one, pausing for a quiet moment or laying bouquets of flowers in the grass. Remnants of the crash — shards of plastic and a sheared-off traffic pole — still lay nearby.

It had been less than 36 hours since two students were hit by a vehicle that veered onto the sidewalk on NW Marine Drive, near the UBC Botanical Garden, around 1:45 a.m. PT on Sunday.

Both students were 18 years old — one male, one female.

RCMP said the driver of the vehicle, a 21-year-old man, was arrested at the scene and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. He was later released and was expected to appear in court at a later date.

Students, faculty call for road improvements

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash and are looking to determine whether speed or impairment played a role.

The crash site is just north of the botanical gardens, behind the Totem Park residence. Marine Drive is a wide road stretching northwest around the coastline and, at night, is generally devoid of traffic.

The speed limit drops from 80 km/h to 60 and then to 40 as northbound drivers approach the site of the crash, though there are no traffic lights, speed bumps or speed traps to help enforce the change.

Despite no official word of a cause, online student forums were soon filled with speculation the crash was caused by reckless driving in some form. Several who said they lived in the nearby dorms said it's typical to hear cars taking "joyrides" through the area at night.

"Absolutely tragic, but not surprising," wrote one user who identified themselves as a former first-year resident at the dorm.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

UBC meeting with ministry, police

One faculty member recalled similar conversations in 2011, after a motorcyclist was killed on the same road.

"When I was on scene at that accident about 10 years ago, people living in the area were talking about how they keep seeing people speeding and they've complained before and nothing was done until someone has actually died," said Benjamin Cheung, a lecturer at UBC's psychology department, referencing a fatal crash at Marine and Kullahun Drive around four kilometres southeast of Sunday's incident.

"There's obvious anger [now]," said Cheung. "A lot of feeling like this could have been avoidable."

A UBC spokesperson declined an interview Monday, but said the university will be meeting with the Ministry of Transportation and RCMP to discuss road safety concerns and possible upgrades in wake of the crash.

RCMP said officials won't be releasing the names of the victims to protect their families' privacy.

The university said grief and trauma counsellors are available to students. The university's student society also offers mental health support.

Investigators have asked any witnesses or drivers with dashcam video of the crash to contact police at 604-224-1322.

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