A 5-year-old girl fatally struck by an empty SUV that police say somehow rolled away and pinned her against another vehicle outside a school in Toronto’s north end had previously survived a cancer diagnosis, a family friend told Global News.
Ana Paula Carrera said she has known the little girl’s mother for several years and described the child as a fighter.
“They found she had a tumour. A Wilms Tumour,” Carrera said. “I never saw Catherine putting the guard down. Was always so strong keeping her faith so high.”
The St. Raphael Catholic School community set up counselling services for students and staff on Tuesday to help them cope with the tragedy.
“We’re sending our thoughts and prayers to the entire community, especially the family and the families involved,” Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) superintendent of education Michael Caccamo told reporters at the school on Tuesday.
“We rely very much on our faith. Being a Catholic school community, we turn to God and we ask for prayer and support.”
Police and paramedics were called to the Ianhall Road and Victory Drive area, near Keele Street and Wilson Avenue, at around 3:30 p.m. Monday with reports of a collision.
Toronto police said the girl, who has been identified as Camila Torcato, was being put in a Mercedes-Benz by her father when she was struck by an empty Hyundai SUV.
Torcato was subsequently rushed to the Hospital for Sick Children but later succumbed to her injuries.
Police said the girl’s 42-year-old father, who was also hit in the collision, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
VIDEO: 5-year-old girl dies in what police call a ‘freak accident’
A makeshift memorial with flowers and stuffed animals was set up just outside the school on Monday.
Carrera set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds in support of the family. She said Torcato was previously treated for cancer and described her as a fighter.
“The only thing that we can believe is that she was a true angel,” Carrera wrote on GoFundMe.
“The people who really suffer from these type of events are the parents who have to live on without their child and they deserve all the support that they can get so they can find peace.”
As of early Wednesday morning, more than $22,000 was raised on the crowdfunding page.
Coun. Maria Augimeri, who represents the Ward 9 community where the collision took place, said the child’s death, although tragic, could have been prevented as there are signs in place telling parents where not to park their vehicles and pick up their children.
“Last April, we went to council. Council was very supportive of changing the signs,” Augimeri said.
“We did what the parents wanted us to do. What the school community wanted us to do. And parents still, at every school and every day, morning and afternoon, don’t pay attention to the signs that we put up. And this could have been avoided.”
Police said their investigation into how the unoccupied vehicle managed to roll away is still under investigation.
Anyone with information about the collision is asked to call police at 416-808-1900 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
— With files from Nick Westoll