Teddy bears, drawings, flowers and notes of sympathy were piling up Thursday afternoon on St-Ambroise St. at the corner of Sir-Georges-Étienne-Cartier Square in St-Henri.
The makeshift shrine was set up for an 8-year-old boy who was killed after being hit by a car Wednesday about 4 p.m.
A woman stopped her car at the stop sign and was setting off, heading east on St-Ambroise St., when the boy stepped out in front of her car and was hit, suffering injuries to his lower body, police spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils said. The boy was still conscious when paramedics arrived, but died of his injuries later in hospital. Witnesses said he had finished day camp and ran across the street to join his mother, who was picking him up.
The boy was a camper at Centre Récréatif, Culturel et Sportif St-Zotique.
“Everyone started to run and scream in direction of the street,” said Jacinthe Labelle, who was picking up her 6-year-old daughter from the same camp. “I felt that I could not go see it. I just made sure it was not my daughter who was involved.”
The intersection is heavily trafficked by cyclists heading to the Lachine Canal and pedestrians frequenting the many parks in the area, including the massive Parc Gédéon-de-Catalogne, as well as the Atwater Market. Motorists often use the street as an alternative to Notre-Dame St., say some local residents.
There seem to be many measures in place at the intersection to ensure cars slow down and there is proper sharing of the road with cyclists and pedestrians. There are widened sidewalks, a bicycle lane and numerous signs telling motorists to slow down. The area also has a posted speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour.
Labelle, however, said there are so many young kids in the area and added that their behaviour can be unpredictable.
“Every afternoon at 4, there are so many parents and kids; I think we need a crossing guard in this area,” she said. “Why don’t we have crossing guards for camps? There are so many kids in the area, running around. They are so excited. We need a crossing guard. As parents, maybe we’ll do it.
“The woman made her stop; she didn’t do anything wrong, but kids run.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the camp expressed sympathies for the family and announced that activities would be cancelled until Monday. Grief counsellors will be on site when camp returns.
Borough mayor Benoit Dorais also expressed sympathy for the family.
“It pained me to hear of the death of a child who attended CRCS St-Zotique,” Dorais wrote on his Facebook page. “Despite all the efforts of first responders and police, it was not possible to save this boy’s life. On behalf of all elected officials of the Sud-Ouest borough, I offer my most sincere condolences to his family.”
The ordeal also hit home for area resident Julie Laurin, who walked over on Thursday with her 8-year-old daughter, Alexis, and 6-year-old son, Jack.
“It took me a while to get to sleep last night,” Laurin said after depositing flowers from her garden on the growing pile.
Alexis has attended the camp in years past and said she probably knew the boy, whose name was not known on Thursday afternoon.
“When I heard about it, it just hit me: that can happen to anyone in the neighbourhood and anyone I knew,” Alexis said. “It made me sad. On my way here, I kept thinking: what a poor kid. That just put a hole in his family.”
Estefania Contreras said she believes it’s difficult for motorists to see pedestrians at the corner because of a post that blocks the intersection.
“The cars don’t see us because of that post,” she said. “It’s terrible. I hate it, and I’m a driver, a cyclist, I walk and I have kids. We use the street and I see how everyone is always in a rush and not fully there to see what they are doing.”
Contreras said local residents have complained in the past about speeding cars on the street.
“The city knows this corner is crazy,” she said. “They’ll do something. If not, as parents and citizens, we are going to make sure there are changes.”
On Thursday afternoon, a Montreal police officer was using a radar gun to tag speeding cars and pull them over to issue tickets. Four police cadets were handing out leaflets to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers with tips reminding them about safe habits on the road.