A Tragedy On Abbott Street

Memorial on NW corner of Expo and Abbott
Memorial on NW corner of Expo and Abbott

Last Wednesday, August 26, just after noon, a mother and her baby were run down by a truck as they crossed Expo Boulevard at the intersection with Abbott Street here in Tinseltown. The mother is recovering in hospital with serious injuries, but tragically, her two-year old daughter was killed.

The driver of the tow truck, like much of the traffic in this area, was just passing through, turning right onto Expo from Abbott. He’s been questioned by police and released as they continue their investigation. “Police go to a lot of tragic situations, but there are very few that impact you like the death of a child,” Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness told the Vancouver Sun.

That impact is being felt throughout our neighbourhood, from Paris Place all the way to Citygate. A member of our Keefer Community Group is also a young mother and was horrified to witness the accident while out walking with her beautiful girl.

She told me she can’t get the accident out of her mind: “We have crossed that street many, many times and have dealt with the large amount of traffic and aggressive drivers.  Just a few weeks ago while we were out on a walk I counted the number of vehicles that went through solid red lights at that exact corner…. my total was 5.”

The child that died had already touched countless lives – she was known to many in the community – and this needless accident has touched thousands more. With effort, this tragic death might have been avoided. With action now, future accidents can be prevented.

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the population of this neighbourhood. Firenze, Espana and Woodwards have added six new, high-rise towers to our community along with thousands of residents and greatly increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The Skytrain Stadium station also brings thousands of pedestrians to our area every day as they commute to work, go to the movies at Tinseltown Mall, buy groceries at T&T Market, eat at the many great restaurants or to watch games and concerts at BC and GM Place.

The increased population and swarms of visitors is great for local businesses. It has also added to the city’s coffers through development permits and a large increase in the tax base. But the city has done nothing to accommodate the new residents, drivers and throngs of visitors despite repeated requests by area residents.

I spoke to the City’s Traffic Department on behalf of the Keefer Community Group months ago about these concerns. I pointed out the greatly increased foot and car traffic in our area and the way drivers are racing through Abbott Street as the artery of choice connecting Pacific and Expo Boulevard to all points north, east and west. I expressed very real concern about the serious potential for a pedestrian accident based on many near-misses I’ve witnessed myself.

The mother from our community group also wrote City Hall: “I have sent two e-mails off to the city and spoken to one employee about the lack of a crosswalk at Keefer Place and Taylor street…no stop signs and not even a painted crosswalk.  It is a busy street that people use often to get to a well-used bus stop and to Andy Livingston Park. So far I haven’t had an e-mail returned or actually spoken to a person in the correct department…I will keep trying.”

What is the traffic plan for this area? Where are the traffic calming measures necessary to ensure the safety of our residents, given the dramatic increase in traffic?

Where are the signs on Expo warning cars of the pedestrian crossing at Abbott? Where is the crosswalk on Keefer Place at Taylor allowing residents safe access to Andy Livingston Park?

We also need to solve the bottleneck created by the offset parking entrances to Espana and Paris Place between Keefer and Pender on Abbott. And there should be a crosswalk there as well, to accommodate the constant thread of pedestrians racing across the traffic to get to the mall.

Like many other neighbourhoods in the city, Tinseltown is going through growing pains that have been ignored for too long. Local community groups know our area’s problems best. If the City would start listening, we could work together to address the very real livability issues in our area and make the entire neighbourhood safer.

In Tinseltown we’re still waiting, as families across the area mourn a little girl who fell victim to the traffic racing heedless through our crowded streets.

Donations can be made to the Kazama family victim’s trust account at any branch of Coast Capital Savings. Police are asking witnesses to the accident to call the collision investigation unit at 604-717-3012.

A mother and her daughter were struck by a tow truck at Abbott Street and Expo Boulevard on Wednesday.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun

A two-year-old girl is dead after a tow truck struck a mother and her toddler while they were crossing the street in downtown Vancouver.

The accident happened at the corner of Abbott Street and Expo Boulevard in front of General Motors Place shortly after noon on Wednesday. Police say the truck was turning right onto Expo Boulevard when it struck the mother, who was pushing her child in a stroller.

The child died at the scene.

The 32-year-old mother was taken to hospital with serious injuries. As of Wednesday evening, she was in stable condition and expected to survive.

“Police go to a lot of tragic situations, but there are very few that impact you like the death of a child,” said Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness. “When you’re a first responder — whether you’re police, fire, or ambulance — you’re not prepared for something like this. And if you’re a parent as well, it resonates deeply with you.”

It was unclear whether the mother and the toddler were in the crosswalk when they were struck, or who had the right of way.

Police covered the baby carriage and toddler with a white blanket before the body was removed around 3:30 p.m. The truck, a white Ford F750 with a 21-foot flat deck capable of towing two cars at once, remained at the accident scene Wednesday afternoon.

A phone number posted on the side of the truck reaches a voice mailbox for a man who identifies himself as William Mah.

The phone number is also included in online classified ads listing the truck as for sale. One classified ad, posted Tuesday, says the truck is in “excellent condition with maintenance and servicing up to date.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, a man who identified himself as Mah’s father said his son, who owns a towing company, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday.

In 1994, a William Mah was dismissed from his job as a coach cleaner with Via Rail after two incidents of alleged sleeping on the job. An arbitrator’s ruling over a subsequent union grievance held that Mah is a diabetic, and that the condition was impacting his work performance. The ruling noted Mah was running an auto towing business while working for Via Rail.

Police would not confirm whether Mah was driving the truck when it struck the woman, but said the driver is cooperating with the investigation.

“At this stage, it’s way too early to say if we are looking at charges or anything like that,” McGuinness said. “We need to go through the investigation first and learn all the facts.”

The crossing where the child died runs between GM Place and a condominium construction site.

Jordan Kryzanowski was in his condo across the street when the accident happened. When he looked out his window and saw a baby carriage flipped over in the street, he was immediately concerned for his wife, who was out with their two boys, ages one and four.

“I just heard all the ambulances and fire trucks,” he said. “I called her and I said to myself, ‘Pick up the phone, pick up the phone.'”

His wife, Rejoice Kryzanowski, was down the street from the accident when it occurred. She said drivers in the area often don’t pay enough attention to pedestrians.

“My heart goes out to the family today, but it shouldn’t have happened. It sends chills,” she said. “[Drivers] have put a stop to this. In crosswalks, slow down.”

ICBC claims statistics show that there have been roughly 60 motor vehicle accidents at the intersection between 2004 and 2008. Twenty-five of these crashes were considered severe casualties, which means they resulted in injury or death. ICBC would not say how many of these accidents were fatalities.

The remaining incidents involved property damage.

A preliminary look at city statistics shows one pedestrian accident and about 100 motor vehicle accidents at the intersection over the past eight years, said Jerry Dobrovolny, an assistant city engineer.

“That isn’t unusual for downtown,” Dobrovolny said of the numbers. “We are taking a closer look at that data obviously because of the situation.”