Watch above: Leaside residents blame fatal accident on thoroughfare traffic. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO – Leaside residents say increased traffic congestion may have been a contributing factor for a collision that led to the death of a six-year-old girl Wednesday afternoon.
“If you went and knocked on 100 doors here on McCrae, you’d get a 100 people telling you we have a traffic problem here on Leaside,” area resident Roger Cattell said.
Georgia Walsh, the daughter of Conservative Party president John Walsh, was struck just after 4:30 p.m. while she was crossing the street a few blocks south of Eglinton Avenue near the intersection of Millwood Road and McCrae Drive.
She was rushed to Sick Kids Hospital but succumbed to her injuries less than two hours later.
Police say the 50-year-old driver of a 1998 Toyota Sienna remained at the scene of the crash. There’s no word yet if any charges will be laid.
Toronto Police spokesperson Clint Stibbe said police are investigating every aspect of the intersection, including the colour of the stop lights at the time, obstructions, and lane markings to determine if anything contributed to the incident.
Stibbe said the driver was making a right-hand turn onto Millwood Road onto McCrae Drive when he struck the young girl who was crossing the road.
Authorities confirmed Georgia Walsh lived in the area.
The family released a brief statement late Wednesday evening confirming the news that the Walsh family’s “beautiful daughter and wonderful sister Georgia has passed.”
“Taken from them suddenly in an accident today, the family asks that they be given their space and privacy to come to terms with this incredible loss,” the statement read. “Your prayers are appreciated.”
Residents say the area is relatively safe, but others have expressed concern that cars tend to go too quickly through the intersection prompting the call to reduce speed limits in residential neighbourhoods.
Councillor John Parker told reporters at city hall Thursday the construction on Eglinton Avenue has forced more cars onto side-streets like Millwood Road and McCrae Drive.
But John Cern, a Toronto resident who lives in Leaside, was much more direct in his criticism of the construction, suggesting the city has to do something to make the roads safer.
“They’ve got to have police around here making sure people go 30 kilometres an hour, 40 kilometres an hour, speed bumps, whatever,” Cern said. “It makes me very cross, I’m angry and I’m sad.”
Rob Ford too suggested traffic diverted from Eglinton may be causing more problems in Leaside.
“I don’t know how I would carry on if I lost my daughter. My heart bleeds for this family and any other family that has lost a loved one especially a child,” Ford said.
“I do not support reducing the lanes of traffic on Eglinton because of what, exactly what I said at council, the people are going to go onto the side streets.”
Cern said increased development on Laird Drive, coupled with ongoing road construction on Eglinton Avenue has forced significantly more traffic into the residential neighbourhood, especially during rush hour.
“Since they’ve done the development down on Laird, and there’s construction on Eglinton, this area has become just a go through for traffic. There’s traffic jams in here every day. And as you can see there’s bicycle camp, there’s tennis camp, there’s baseball, there’s kids everywhere around here,” he said. “The saddest thing ever happened here yesterday.”
And Cattell said he – and dozens of others in Leaside – have contacted the city about growing traffic concerns in the area but hasn’t had a sufficient response.
“We’ve engaged the police, we’ve engaged traffic officers, we’ve engaged our councillors, we’ve engaged various people from the city in a desperate search to help us,” he said. “Now maybe is the time to do things collectively. And what that is, I’m not sure.”
The community has organized a vigil for Walsh at 4 p.m. at the corner of Millwood Avenue and McCrae Drive.
The Conservative Party website says John Walsh lives in the Don Valley West riding in Toronto with his wife Jillian and four children Duncan, Liam, Georgia and Finnian.
Police are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward.
With a report from Angie Seth