Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'I don't blame him': mother of teen killed in Wellington crash

Kelvin students mourn loss of 17-year-old female classmate

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The mother of a teenage girl killed in a tragic motor vehicle collision says she has forgiven the driver now facing charges in the crash.

A day after Julia Romanow, 17, died after being thrown from an SUV that slammed into a tree on Wellington Crescent -- and just hours after the vehicle's driver was charged -- Jacqueline Romanow said the charges "won't make any difference to Julia's life.

"I know he already is going to suffer and I don't want to make it worse," she said. "I don't blame him for anything at all. It was young people leaving school and going somewhere."

"I don't know how I'll ever get over this."

A 17-year-old boy who was driving the SUV that crashed Thursday on Wellington Crescent has been charged with dangerous driving causing death and three counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Three other 17-year-olds were hurt in the noon-hour crash that claimed Julia Romanow.  All five teens were students at Kelvin High School.

Speed a factor: police

Police said speed was a factor when the 2006 Pontiac Torrent went out of control in the 1600 block of Wellington and hit a tree. Romanow was likely not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle, police said.

As grim-faced students walked to their classes at Kelvin this morning, Kelvin principal Jim Brown summed up the situation in an intercom address.

"It’s going to be a tough day for Kelvin," he said.

Brown didn’t mention Romanow, a Grade 12 student, by name, although he did say one of the school's own had died. He said the school’s thoughts and prayers went out to her family.

Brown and other school officials visited the hospital Thursday night and spoke with the families of students injured in the single-vehicle collision earlier in the day.

He said although the injuries were serious, there were some "positive" signs that they would recover.

Winnipeg School Division said it will be assisting Kelvin with its crisis response plan. This includes briefing staff members at a special meeting and encouraging teachers to discuss the incident with their students and help them deal with their emotions.

"In addition to the guidance counsellors in the school, additional resources are available for students and will remain in place for as long as it is required,’ said Dale Burgos, communications officer with the school division.

'It was surreal'

A notorious curve and speed are believed to be factors in the crash over the noon-hour Thursday.

An SUV hit a tree just before 1 p.m. at a curve on Wellington, about half a kilometre west of the St. James Bridge.

Two other 17-year-old girls were taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries but their conditions have since been upgraded to stable, police said Thursday night.

Another passenger, a 17-year-old boy, and the driver were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Winnipeg police didn't identify any of the people in the car on Thursday, but messages of condolence on Twitter Thursday night said the girl who died was Romanow.

Wellington Crescent was closed between Academy Road and Kenaston Boulevard until long after dark while police conducted their investigation.

A witness who was jogging said he came upon the crash scene, where he found the body of a young woman who had been ejected from the vehicle lying on the road beside the badly damaged SUV, two young men in shock on the road and two young women still trapped inside.

Shannon Martin said he recently took a St. John's Ambulance training course, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight of the crash scene.

"It was surreal," he said. "There's a family out there who is going to get some very tragic news."

The two young women who were still inside the vehicle had to be extricated by firefighters, he said.

"It was a single-vehicle accident and they obviously lost control coming around the corner."

Many accidents at curve: neighbours

An hour after the collision, police investigators at the scene were marking the roadway as if the SUV had been travelling west on Wellington Crescent. There were no visible skid marks.

Police are asking members of the public who may have information about the crash to contact the central traffic unit at 204-986-7085.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service's major incident response vehicle also responded to the crash. It is called upon when there is the potential for mass casualties.

An area resident said the curve in the road has been the scene of many accidents over the years.

Debra Ann Kaminsky said vehicles often take the turn at 80 kilometres per hour and end up losing control and driving across her front yard.

"We've asked the city numerous times to do something about it but essentially, nothing has been done," Kaminsky said.

The crash is a few blocks west of last week's fatal crash on Academy Road, in which an SUV rounding a curve near Wilton Street just after 11 p.m. crossed the centre line and struck a van with two adults and three young children in it. A seven-year-old girl died the next day from the injuries she received in the crash.

-- with files from Geoff Kirbyson and Carol Sanders

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2012 A3

History

Updated on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 10:26 AM CDT: Updates with comments from school division.

1:40 PM: Updates with charges laid.

3:00 PM: Adds video from school.

5:29 PM: Adds comment from mother.

6:35 PM: Fixes byline, punctuation

6:58 PM: Adds photo of mother

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