May 23, 2019

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Profound shock, profound sadness

Girl, 4, struck by vehicle at crosswalk dies

A four-year-old girl who was struck Monday by a vehicle at a Winnipeg crosswalk has died.

The girl, named Galila, recently arrived in Canada from Eritrea with her parents and six-year-old brother. She died at the Health Sciences Centre, where she and her mother, who was also hit by the vehicle as they crossed Isabel Street at Alexander Avenue, had been listed in critical condition.

"It's a profound shock," said family spokeswoman Dorota Blumczynska, who was at the hospital late Tuesday to console the child's father.

"Everything has happened so quickly," said the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, which runs the transitional housing complex on Isabel Street where the family lives.

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A four-year-old girl who was struck Monday by a vehicle at a Winnipeg crosswalk has died.

The girl, named Galila, recently arrived in Canada from Eritrea with her parents and six-year-old brother. She died at the Health Sciences Centre, where she and her mother, who was also hit by the vehicle as they crossed Isabel Street at Alexander Avenue, had been listed in critical condition.

"It's a profound shock," said family spokeswoman Dorota Blumczynska, who was at the hospital late Tuesday to console the child's father.

"Everything has happened so quickly," said the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, which runs the transitional housing complex on Isabel Street where the family lives.

"The family has continued to ask for privacy."

Galila passed away at the Health Sciences Centre after being struck by a vehicle at the crosswalk on Isabel Street near Alexander Avenue Monday. (John Woods / Free Press files)</p></p>

Galila passed away at the Health Sciences Centre after being struck by a vehicle at the crosswalk on Isabel Street near Alexander Avenue Monday. (John Woods / Free Press files)

On Monday, just before noon, Galila and her mother — identified Wednesday by Blumczynska as Genet Bruk — were walking to pick up Galila's six-year-old brother, Lamek, at Dufferin School. The pair were hit by a northbound vehicle at the crosswalk.

City police have not released any further details about the incident, other than Galila died as a result of her injuries.

Blumczynska said Bruk remains in hospital in stable condition. Her husband, Rezene Bruk, was there when his daughter died Tuesday evening, she said.

"Now he has to direct his energy to his wife," said an emotional Blumczynska, after she and other IRCOM staff held a vigil at the hospital with the Bruks until the early hours Wednesday.

The couple are in the early stages of learning English and an interpreter is helping the couple through complex medical information at HSC.

The language of grief, however, is painfully simple.

"The father and I exchanged some words of profound sadness," Blumczynska said through tears.

"The mom needs to fully recover and it will be a long journey for her... She and her husband and son need our continued prayers and love and support to make it through this."

Second child's crosswalk death in two years

Galila's death echoes a similar tragedy in the city little more than a year ago.

In February 2018, eight-year-old Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam was on his way to École Varennes with his mother, when he was hit and killed by a vehicle at the crosswalk on St. Anne's Road.

After Surafiel's death, St. Vital residents pushed for greater safety at the crosswalk, Coun. Brian Mayes said.

In February 2018, Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam, 8,  was on his way to École Varennes with his mother, when he was hit and killed by a vehicle at a crosswalk on St. Anne's Road.

In February 2018, Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam, 8, was on his way to École Varennes with his mother, when he was hit and killed by a vehicle at a crosswalk on St. Anne's Road.

"I got more calls and emails on this than anything," he said. "It was upsetting for the whole community."

In May, city councillors on the public works committee unanimously approved an administration plan for the installation of eye-level, flashing warning lights at the St. Anne's Road crosswalk. Tree branches that could obscure the existing flashing amber lights at the crossing were pruned to improve visibility. The cost was roughly $25,000.

"I think it improves visibility," said the councillor for St. Vital, adding he would like to see more crosswalks with beefed-up warning lights.

"Anecdotally, people have been positive about it," said Mayes, who is awaiting a formal report on the impact of the St. Anne's Road crosswalk improvements.

Most pedestrians hit weekdays, afternoons

Manitoba Public Insurance's more recent statistics show the number of pedestrians hit by vehicles has gone up.

MPI doesn't have specific crosswalk data, but its 2017 report shows 179 people were killed or injured that year — an involvement rate of 13.2 per 100,000 people, compared to an average of 11.4 per 100,000 from 2012 to 2016.

Most pedestrians in Manitoba were hit on a weekday (82 per cent) and between noon and 6 p.m. Almost half (41 per cent) were hit at an intersection and had the right of way.

Manitobans ages 55 to 64 had the highest rate of being hit and killed, MPI numbers show.

Children under the age of 10 had the lowest rate of pedestrian deaths and injuries in Manitoba. Their deaths, understandably, often prompt the biggest response, said Mayes.

"When a child is killed, people want action," the councillor said.

In April, the city's Riel community committee will consider a request from Surafiel's mother to put an honorary street name topper on the sign at the corner where he died. The blue sign would say "Surafiel," said Mayes.

He said he'll vote to approve the sign staying up for 10 years.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 2:40 PM CDT: fixed typo

4:54 PM: Adds comment from MPI, councillor.

6:47 PM: Updates date.

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