Girl struck by SUV in Gordon Head described as ‘really resilient’

Staff and students at Arbutus Middle School and Torquay Elementary are reeling after the collision that seriously injured 11-year-old Leila Bui and are hoping she will recover.

“We have teachers and educational assistants and principals who are really affected by this,” said Piet Langstraat, superintendent of the Greater Victoria school district. “We are all, every single one of us, pulling together and absolutely praying for the best for her.”

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Leila has not regained consciousness since she was struck by an eastbound SUV at the intersection of Ash Road and Torquay Drive as she crossed the street in front of her family home on Wednesday morning.

Langstraat said Leila is a “wonderful young girl” who is very involved in the school community.

“She’s a really resilient student and she’s tough and a fighter. Those are all really good things in a time like this,” he said.

A critical incident response team, which includes grief counsellors, has reached out to staff and students at Arbutus Middle School, where Leila is in Grade 6, and Torquay Elementary, which she attended last year.

Leila’s older sister, Quynh-Lan, is in Grade 8 at Arbutus Middle School and her younger siblings Myla, 8, and Jace, 5, attend Torquay Elementary.

The school district has reached out to the family, who have expressed gratitude for the support.

“It’s tragic any time this happens,” Langstraat said, “but so close to Christmas when people have plans of having family together and vacation time, to have something like this happen just a few days before the Christmas break just intensifies all of those feelings.”

He said the crash has encouraged parents to talk to their children about road safety.

Several parents and neighbours have expressed concern about drivers speeding on Ash Road and about a lack of visibility at the Torquay Drive crosswalk for eastbound drivers cresting the hill.

“It’s interesting and troubling because with the creation of the bikes lanes on Shelbourne, people are using Ash Road as an alternative route,” Langstraat said. “So there’s heavier traffic on Ash.”

There is also a large arbutus tree that hangs over the road and blocks sight lines.

Leila is in hospital in a medically induced coma and doctors are concerned about swelling in her brain, her grandfather Andy Bui said Thursday.

Saanich police traffic analyst Sgt. Alan Gurzinski said Friday he does not believe there’s been a change in Leila’s medical condition.

Gurzinski said the investigation into the collision could take months.

Jo-Anne Chambers and Lesley Machan, long-time residents of Ash Road, say they contacted the District of Saanich’s engineering department several times in recent years asking for traffic-calming measures at the intersection.

Machan said she first sent an email to the engineering department on Dec. 16, 2016.

“I kind of got lip service,” she said.

She said her sister was nearly hit by cars three times while walking her dog over the summer, so she, too, sent an email to Saanich staff.

“She basically got the same brush-off from Saanich,” Machan said.

Fed up with a lack of action, Machan took her concerns to the Gordon Head Residents Association in November. Association members analyzed the traffic and sent a letter to Saanich’s engineering department on Sunday, three days before the crash.

“We’ve been saying it’s just an accident waiting to happen,” Machan said. “When you hear of a child being knocked down in a marked crosswalk, it’s completely preventable.”

Chambers sent an email to mayor and council in 2015, after concerns raised to the engineering department in 2012 went unanswered.

Coun. Leif Wergeland responded to Chambers’ email and asked her to contact the administrative traffic committee.

On Friday, Wergeland said: “I can assure you, something will be happening in terms of ways to improve that crosswalk.”

Saanich’s administrative traffic committee, which includes engineering staff and Saanich police, will meet in January to review the intersection.

“What happened the other day is so unfortunate,” Wergeland said. “Could we have done better? You can always do better, there’s no question.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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