15-year-old Brazilian student fatally struck in Burnaby identified
Published Thursday, January 18, 2018 12:47PM PST Last Updated Thursday, January 18, 2018 7:39PM PST
Friends of a 15-year-old Brazilian exchange student who died after being struck by a vehicle in Burnaby Wednesday are remembering her as a beautiful and artistic young woman.
Fernanda Girotto, whose identity emerged on social media and several Brazilian news outlets Thursday, was hit by a northbound vehicle while crossing at a marked crosswalk on Cariboo Road south of Highway 1 shortly after 7 a.m., according to the RCMP. She died at the scene.
Girotto and her 17-year-old sister were on their way to a nearby bus stop at the time of the collision.
According to several media reports, Girotto was on an exchange program and was set to return home at the end of January.
On Thursday, messages of condolence and support began pouring in on social media for the teen and her family.
The girl's mother, Rosana Girotto, shared the news of her daughter's death in Facebook post Thursday morning.
"My baby, I have no words, I just ask you to pray," she wrote.
Staff at Espaço Arte, an art school the teen attended in Brazil, said in a Facebook post that Girotto was "admired for the joy that she conveyed to all other students and teachers."
The cause of Wednesday's collision remains unclear, but Mounties said the driver involved remained at the scene and has been co-operating with police.
The area was closed for several hours as officers gathered evidence and cleared debris from the road.
Investigators returned to the scene on Thursday to take more photos.
Residents in the area were also left in shock, saying they’re still coming to grips with the tragic loss of life that took place just steps away from their homes.
"When we found out who it was, we were just blown away. We were devastated,” said Janice Ross, who was tending to a growing memorial at the scene of the fatal collision Thursday.
Ross said she and Girotto lived in the same complex.
The crosswalk where the collision took place has no flashing lights and the streetlights are staggered, so the area is not very well-lit. The crosswalk has been the scene of many accidents, according to locals.
Even the memorial for Girotto had to be moved Thursday after a vehicle knocked down a tree where residents had first starting leaving flowers.
Arturo Breton said he and others in the area have been lobbying the City of Burnaby for years to add lights to the crosswalk, saying it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.
"I was just shocked, but…I knew that this was going to happen," he told CTV News.
"It took about 15 years of lobbying to get this crosswalk in the first place. When they finally put in the crosswalk, they said, 'Lights? What lights?'"
"This is the worst thing that could possibly happen," said Pat Stephens, another area resident. "It's what we've been saying for years and it happened. Now what do we do?"
A member of the nearby Cariboo Hill Temple has also started a Change.org petition calling on the city to take action to protect the people who use the crosswalk each week.
"There are hundreds of bus users, children, teens, seniors, runners, cyclists and everyday adults at risk," Sarah-Kate Salmon wrote.
"I personally have almost been hit a handful of times, and never feel safe crossing the street from the bus stop. This needs to change - and it's simple."
A 2017 review by the city staff indicated that a traffic signal might not be the best solution for that particular crossing.
The city did say it is looking at other ways of making it safer, including changes to a nearby intersection that would force to drivers reduce their speed as they approach the scene of Wednesday's fatal collision.
Until then, residents are taking extra precautions when it comes to the crossing.
Ross, who normally takes the bus, said her daughter is driving her to work so that she doesn't have to cross Cariboo Road.
After several close calls, Breton added a flag and reflective tape to his wheelchair.
"Something needs to be done," he said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Breanna Karstens-Smith