Father voices concerns after son, 5, struck by car in Courtenay, B.C.
RCMP say the driver of a vehicle that struck a five-year-old boy on his way to school on Tuesday in Courtenay, B.C., will not face any criminal charges.
"I think we're extremely lucky that the driver was following all of the traffic laws so that we did avoid a tragic outcome in this case," said Comox Valley RCMP Const. Monika Terragni on Wednesday.
First responders were called to the 400-block of Woods Avenue on Tuesday morning for the report of a pedestrian being struck. Terragni says the driver remained at the scene and was cooperative.
The youngster was struck as he and his seven-year-old brother were on their way to Puntledge Park Elementary School.
"It's going to be traumatic for anybody that was in the area, whether it's a witness, the driver, the parents, the child – absolutely it's traumatic for everybody," said Terragni.
The constable says the driver was cleared of any wrongdoing and they were assisted by dashcam video supplied by the driver, as well as doorbell surveillance footage from a home near the scene.
The boy’s father, Brian Garneau, was alerted that his son had been struck shortly after the accident occurred.
"It happened in front of a friend of ours' house and she went running up to our house to get my wife and then phoned me at work and I dropped everything," Garneau told CTV News.
He drove to the scene unsure of what he would see or what condition his child would be in.
"You don’t know what you’re going to come up to, what you’re going to see at first," he said. "I didn’t know, was he alive or was he not?"
His son, Kalem, was transported to a local hospital and then transferred to Nanaimo General Hospital where he underwent surgeries.
"His condition is a broken femur on his right leg and just some really good facial lacerations," he said.
Kalem is pictured in hospital after the crash.Garneau says the area is often congested with vehicles dropping students off in the area. He says his sons were outside of a marked crosswalk and were headed to a commonly used trail towards the elementary school.
"I guess he just decided to bolt, didn’t see that there was a car coming and got hit," he said.
A statement to CTV from School District 71 says counselling was made available throughout the day for those students who witnessed the accident and called for motorists and pedestrians to both use extra caution.
"For pedestrians, small steps such as being highly visible, making sure to look both ways before crossing, using crosswalks/four-way stops to cross, and making eye contact with drivers before crossing can help prevent accidents," the statement reads.
"Drivers should make sure there are no distractions that take their mind off driving, be sure to watch carefully for pedestrians when approaching crosswalks/intersections and take extra caution while making turns to ensure all pedestrians have cleared the area," it continued.
Garneau says he and other parents have had concerns about traffic issues in the neighbourhood and would like to see some changes made including the addition of pedestrian controlled crossings.
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells says the city will look into any safety concerns around the neighbourhood where the incident occurred.
"First of all, our thoughts are with those affected by the accident and it is unfortunately a reminder that we have to be as cautious as possible as drivers, as well as pedestrians, when we’re travelling through school zones – and really anywhere in our community, especially as mornings and afternoons are a lot darker," Wells said.
"Those signal crossings have certainly been a priority of our council, not just specifically right next to schools but on those corridors where kids are going to school," he added.
"Really what they do is create a little bit more attention to the drivers."
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says Courtenay’s Woods Avenue is municipal and therefore not within its jurisdiction, but says:
"Pedestrian safety is of utmost importance to the Ministry of Transportation. The ministry has guidelines for crosswalks that apply to provincial highways. Municipalities have access to these guidelines and may choose to follow them, or develop their own."
Garneau says his son is likely confined to a wheelchair for the next month and is hoping the incident can be a teaching moment for other students and parents.
He’d also like to see the idea of crossing guards explored.
"That would be ideal, if they would put a flashing crosswalk where they’ve got to press a button or even volunteer teachers or teacher’s aides with a stop sign just like a flag person has in a construction zone," Garneau said.
A "Beer and Burger" night has been set up by staff at Courtenay’s Whistle Stop Pub on Jan. 17 to cover medical expenses for the youngster.
According to Matt Loticki, one of the main cooks at the pub, the $25 event begins at 5:30 p.m. with tickets available in advance at the pub’s beer and wine store.
"I know Brian, and my wife worked with his sister, and he’s just a great guy in the community so [this is] a little bit of support for him," said Loticki.
"It was pretty sad because my grandson was getting dropped off at the same time and I couldn’t imagine what he was going through," he said.
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