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Montrealers call for road safety changes after 7-year-old Ukrainian girl killed in hit-and-run

Young victim fled war, was hit as she walked to schools with siblings

The fatal hit-and-run that left seven-year-old Maria Legenkovska dead during her morning walk to school on Tuesday happened right in front of Nathalie Turenne’s home.

Turenne says she and many of her neighbours have always known the corner of de Rouen and Parthenais in Montreal’s Ville-Marie borough was trouble.

Cars go down a steep hill before coming to the stop sign at that intersection, located in a school zone.

“It’s very sad news but also very frustrating because we’ve been asking for changes for years. We knew that something was going to happen,” Turenne said.

“My daughter … she crossed that street every day, twice a day, for 10 years. She was the same age as that little girl when she started walking to school alone.”

On Friday morning, Turenne and dozens of other parents and children took part in a march in the midst of heavy snowfall to honour the young victim, who had recently moved to Montreal after fleeing the war in Ukraine with her mother and siblings.

The people who marched called on the city to step up road safety measures and make school zones safer. They brandished hand-painted signs that read “stop road violence.”

The march was organized by two groups, Piétons Québec and Vélorution Montréal.

The collision happened in a residential area that countless vehicles go through, given its proximity to the city’s downtown core. 

“It’s down a hill, so a lot of people don’t stop when they get to the stop sign,” Turenne said. “A lot of cars take these streets to go to the South Shore, try to take shortcuts.”

On Tuesday, Juan Manuel Becerra Garcia, a 45-year-old man from the South Shore, turned himself in to police. The Saint-Hubert resident was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He was granted bail, subject to several conditions.

‘We can’t wait for one more death’

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante was at Friday’s march.

“It doesn’t make sense that our children are dying while going to school,” the mayor said, adding that Friday’s march sends a strong message to the city, the Quebec government and Montreal police about the need for better road safety measures.

On Thursday, the city announced that stop signs in that area would be enlarged, police patrols would be stepped up and a stretch of road near the Parthenais and de Rouen intersection would be narrowed to deter speeding.

“We need more, for sure,” said Stéphane Hamel, another neighbour.

“We need a crossing guard because it’s a dangerous [intersection] and whatever you put, a stop, a light or whatever, people will go through it.”

Sandrine Cabana-Degani, the executive director of Piétons Québec, said it’s time for the city to listen to and address the concerns of residents, who have been highlighting safety issues at countless intersections across Montreal.

“We have the power to act. We know what we have to do and we can’t wait for one more death before taking action,” she said.

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