The dump truck collision that killed a 14-year-old girl in Burnaby this week came just six months after another pedestrian was hit by a truck in the area, the NOW has learned.
“This was completely inevitable to happen one day because there’s terrible traffic management around here,” local resident Elise Frith said of Thursday's tragedy.
On Nov. 9, 2021, Frith said she had been walking in the same area, near 16th Street and 11th Avenue, when a truck passing another commercial vehicle hit her with its rear-view mirror.
“We have no sidewalks, and, up until a couple months ago, we had cars parked on both sides of the street, so you couldn’t walk anywhere really,” Frith told the NOW. “I was on the gravel. There was no reason (the truck) should be that close … They didn’t wait for me. This truck was impatient to pass the other truck and get to the end of the street.”
Frith reported the hit-and-run to police even though she wasn’t injured because, just two months earlier, her mom’s vehicle had been scraped by a semi that failed to negotiate a tight turn at the same intersection.
“I think I even said to the officer that I’m 100% certain they’re going to hit somebody one day,” she said.
Southgate City construction
Police said Frith’s hit-and-run and “concerns from the neighbourhood” sparked a meeting between Burnaby RCMP’s traffic unit and the City of Burnaby on Nov. 17 to discuss road safety concerns, according to an emailed Burnaby RCMP statement this week.
“Officers also met with a trucking company that operates in the area to discuss safety,” read the statement.
Several major construction projects in the area, including the Rosemary Brown Arena and the massive Southgate City development by Ledingham McAllister between 15th and 18th streets, have created non-stop truck traffic on 11th Avenue, exacerbated by the closures of 16th Street for a water-main project and 17th Street for the Southgate project, according to Frith.
She says she’s never seen a flagger from the Southgate project out helping pedestrians.
“I’ve never seen anyone hold up any sort of signs for pedestrians when they’re crossing, and they have construction signs posted, just sitting on the road,” she said.
One change the city made after her hit-and-run is that parking is now only allowed on one side of the street, but Frith said that still does leave enough room to keep pedestrians safe when two trucks pass each other.
City of Burnaby communications manager Chris Bryan said the city also took “steps to encourage pedestrians to use alternate routes, such as using 10th Avenue instead of 11th.”
"This was a terrible, tragic incident and our hearts go out to this family," he said in an emailed statement. "The investigation of the incident, as well as discussions with residents about their general concerns about truck traffic and safety, will help us determine the additional steps we can take."
Since the beginning of the year, Burnaby RCMP has conducted three commercial vehicle enforcements within a three-block radius of Thursday’s fatal crash site, according to police.
Of the 110 trucks inspected, 68 were taken out of service for safety violations.
Police said the truck involved in the fatality this week was inspected at the scene by Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement and Burnaby RCMP’s commercial vehicle inspection unit and has since been released back to the company.
The investigation is still in its early stages, according to Burnaby RCMP Cpl. Brett Cunningham.
A man who dropped off flowers at a growing memorial near the place where the 14-year-old was killed told the NOW he was with the same company as the trucker involved.
He said he had heard the truck had just left the Southgate City project when the accident happened.
The worksite and the development's presentation centre were shut down Friday “out of respect for the victim’s family and the community” and will reopen in a limited capacity next week after “a moment of silence and reflection,” according to an emailed statement forwarded to the NOW by Renu Bakshi, a crisis management and public relations professional hired by Ledingham McAllister and Marcon Construction.
“This is an unimaginable loss for her family, and our deepest condolences and thoughts are with them, her friends, schoolmates, and the entire community,” stated the email.
The companies are “fully supporting” the RCMP investigation, according to the statement.
“Safety is our top priority,” it said. “While the accident happened on a public street outside of our construction site, we have launched our own investigation and will work with city staff to explore further ways to reduce risk as trucks enter and leave our site."
The truck driver involved – identified by police as a 57-year-old man who lives outside of Burnaby – “works for a trade partner,” according to the email.
“We understand that he is devastated and in shock,” the email states.
The companies said all activities requiring heavy trucks, including dump trucks, have been shut down until the middle of next week.