Girl, 5, struck by garbage truck 'could have been anyone’s child,' mother says
Published Friday, March 8, 2013 8:52AM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 8, 2013 7:43PM EST
The mother of a five-year-old Toronto girl who was struck and killed by a garbage truck says she’s still trying to understand how the tragedy occurred.
Jessica Belanger said Friday her daughter, Kayleigh Callagan-Belanger, was a smart child who knew to be careful and hold someone’s hand while crossing a street.
“I’m just trying to understand how exactly this happened at a four-way stop sign street right after school when kids are walking…it could have been anyone’s child,” a tearful Belanger told CTV Toronto Friday.
Kayleigh was walking with a group of children near Cliffside Drive and East Haven Drive in the city’s east end after school Thursday afternoon when she and two others were struck by a city garbage truck making a left turn.
Kayleigh was pronounced dead at the scene. A 13-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A fourth child in the group was not injured.
The 64-year-old male driver of the garbage truck collapsed when he realized what happened and he too was taken to a hospital.
Belanger said Kayleigh will be remembered as an “amazing” child who adored her younger sisters.
Belanger is due to give birth to another child very soon. She was at home with her other children when police arrived to deliver the devastating news about Kayleigh.
“She was so talented,” Belanger said. “She loved drawing, she loved playing with her friends, her cousin. She was all-around just an amazing child.”
A makeshift memorial of teddy bears, cards and flowers dedicated to Kayleigh was growing Friday at the site of the of the incident.
At Cliffside Public School, the flag was lowered to half-mast and teachers wore white ribbons in remembrance. Tearful parents said they struggled to explain the tragedy to their children.
Father in shock
At the memorial site Friday morning, Kayleigh’s father Jacob Callaghan told reporters his daughter was a “loving, beautiful girl” who made everyone smile.
“She didn’t deserve anything like this,” he said.
Callaghan said he was still in shock and “can’t completely comprehend what happened.”
Some residents were angered Friday morning when a city garbage truck drove past the school as students were arriving.
“Look at how slow it went, they never go like that. Never,” said Sharon Cooney.
Parents in the area say they are concerned about the lack of sidewalk and crosswalk areas near the collision site and they say they will contact the city and school about putting a crossing guard at the intersection to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Police investigation continues
Meanwhile, police are still determining whether charges will be laid in connection with the collision.
Const. Clint Stibbe of Toronto Police Traffic Services said Friday morning that a forensic team is preparing to conduct a full reconstruction of the collision.
Because of the complexity of the investigation, it could be months before police determine whether charges should be laid.
Investigators collected forensic evidence and witness statements at the scene Thursday evening. An autopsy of the girl has yet to be completed, Stibbe said.
Police had “a good idea” of what happened during the collision, Stibbe said, but “we can’t make any assumptions, we have to look at all witness accounts as well as all the evidence we collect.”
Investigators are also preparing to conduct a mechanical inspection on the seized garbage truck.
Belanger said she’s thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, but she asked for privacy as she grapples with the loss of her child.
“We need time to deal with this as a family,” she said.
A funeral for Kayleigh is expected to take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Scarborough’s Immaculate Heart of Mary, located near Birchmount Rd. and Danforth Ave.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s John Musselman