Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hit in crosswalk, Winkler girl dies

City's mayor points finger at province

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WINKLER -- A teenage girl killed after being struck by a truck outside her brand-new school is being remembered by her family as a kind Christian who loved drawing, photography and her dog.

"She was a very good person," Carina Denisenko's grieving sister, Jenny, said Friday in an interview at the family's home just outside Winkler.

"She never talked bad about other people. She was a good Christian," Jenny, 18, said.

Carina, 16, was the second-eldest of six siblings.

The family of eight moved to Canada from Germany three years ago, Jenny said.

Carina, a Grade 11 student, was a "responsible" person who loved the Canadian way of life, she said.

Winkler police say Carina was hit around 3:30 p.m. Thursday on PR 428 just across the street from Northlands Parkway Collegiate.

She was crossing the street on foot at an unlit pedestrian crossing when she was struck by a GMC Sierra "full-size" pickup truck, police said.

It was school staff who notified Carina's family what happened, Jenny said. They were told to go to the hospital and wait.

'It's rough. To lose somebody like this that way -- nobody expected that, and suddenly it happened'

-- Grade 12 student Erwin Lau

"We went there and waited for a half-hour or more," she said. "The doctor came in. She said they tried to save her," Jenny said.

Winkler police Chief Rick Hiebert said officers continued to gather witness statements Friday.

No charges had been laid against the truck's driver, who police didn't identify. The cause of the collision remained under investigation.

The school opened last month in time for the start of the new school year.

A week before it opened, the speed limit on PR 428 just west of the school was reduced to 50 km/h from 90 km/h.

Hiebert said his officers have been diligent in doing traffic enforcement at the site given the recent speed-limit change, adding a number of drivers have been ticketed.

"Unfortunately, we can't be there all the time," he said.

The school remained open Friday and students were told of Carina's death as they arrived for classes. Staff and teachers were also briefed before the opening bell.

A crisis-support team was in place to assist anyone having a tough time coming to terms with the tragedy, principal Tammy MacDonald said in a statement. Guidance counsellors and youth pastors were also on duty, as was a crossing guard at the pedestrian crossing at the noon-hour break.

Students described a sombre atmosphere.

"It's rough," said Grade 12 student Erwin Lau.

"To lose somebody like this that way -- nobody expected that, and suddenly it happened."

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder described it as a "devastating day" for the entire community.

Harder said he was disappointed in the provincial Transportation Department because of the unfinished state of the crosswalk and how the speed-limit change rolled out.

When construction plans for the school were finalized years ago, it was to have a fully lit crosswalk area, Harder said.

It's "unbelievable" how Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT) has dragged its heels, he said.

"It's very obvious -- that crosswalk needs to be lit," Harder said. Soon, he added, a daycare will open on the school site.

Only hours before Carina was killed, Harder said he received an invoice via email from MIT for $12,500 -- the cost of doing the crosswalk work.

It was Winkler city council that took action a week before the school opened, Harder said, changing the speed limit and requesting local police to do traffic enforcement for the first week.

He said he wasn't looking to make a "political football" of the issue, but wanted townspeople to know council had taken action.

"MIT is really the missing link," he said.

Vern Reimer, superintendent of the Garden Valley School Division, confirmed the division requested PR 428 be twinned and traffic lights installed at the new school. He said he doesn't know why the request was not met. "I know that it didn't happen."

The division will have a closed-door discussion this week about any action that needs to be taken regarding pedestrian safety.

Reimer said it's important to find out from police what happened to Carina before jumping to conclusions.

"The focus today was obviously the students and the staff," Reimer said.

A provincial spokeswoman said in a statement MIT has "worked proactively" to address community safety concerns around the school.

Before the school year started, MIT cost-shared with Winkler several improvements, such as paved shoulders and lane work, as well as installing signage on the new speed limit and crosswalk area.

MIT has "initiated plans" to spend $50,000 for further improvements to the crosswalk, the spokeswoman said.

"In addition, we are in conversation with the City of Winkler for the installation of a lighted corridor," she said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 A4

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