As friends come together to fondly remember a 54-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a cement truck in midtown Toronto, community members are calling for action to improve traffic safety in the area.
J.J. Muroff attended a growing memorial for the woman, who was identified by friends as Evangeline “Vanjie” Lauroza. He said she previously worked for his family and that he knew her for about 10 years.
“She was one of the most passionate, devoted, loving, caring and most kind women that the world needs more of … she was amazing,” he told Global News.
Vera Cruz, who is part of the Precious Blood of Christ Prayer Community at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, told Global News Lauroza was the lead guitarist with the church’s band and sung in the choir.
“She’s a good person — this happening is really a tragic loss,” Cruz said, adding Lauroza came to the church for about seven years.
“She’s a very dedicated servant of God. She works well and she never complains. She’s really a good worker of the community.”
Emergency crews were called to Yonge Street and Erskine Avenue, near Eglinton Avenue East, at around 10 a.m. on Tuesday for reports of a collision. Police said the truck was turning onto Erskine Avenue from Yonge Street and struck the woman as she was crossing the road.
Hours after Lauroza’s death, Toronto Councillor Mike Colle called for a temporary freeze on construction in the area. He said he wants developers to be required to file traffic management safety plans, provide increased training for truck drivers, and ensure there are full-time crossing guards at every construction site.
A day later, he held a news conference with Councillors Jaye Robinson and Josh Matlow — a short distance away from the memorial in honour of Lauroza — about traffic safety measures and enhancements.
“This is a totally different dimension to road safety that hasn’t got the attention it needs,” Colle said, adding the area is besieged with construction vehicles related to the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT project as well as new condo construction.
“We need the reports now. We need the action implementation now.”
Robinson said the Yonge and Eglinton area has been the subject of an increased amount of residential intensification. She said there was a restriction on heavy-duty trucks on Erskine Avenue, along with additional measures, because of John Fisher Jr. Public School (which is a short distance away from where Lauroza was struck).
“This has shaken that community to the core … This poor individual and her family, and the ripple effect across her friends, family and neighbourhood is beyond heartbreaking,” she said.
“Clearly what took place yesterday indicates they (students at the school) are not safe.”
Mayor John Tory issued a statement Wednesday evening after meeting with Colle and Robinson, and City of Toronto staff, about the incident. He said he will be working with them “to investigate what can be done to further help protect our residents.”
“Yonge-Eglinton is undergoing tremendous growth right now with ongoing construction in the area for more housing and transit expansion,” he wrote.
“I believe the immediate implementation of a broad-reaching construction traffic safety management plan for the Yonge-Eglinton area is worth considering.”
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign has been setup to assist with Lauroza’s funeral expenses.