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'A tragic loss': Winnipeg says final goodbye to boy hit by truck at crosswalk

February 17, 2018 5:42 PM
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'A tragic loss': Winnipeg says final goodbye to boy hit by truck at crosswalk

Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam, 8, was killed while using St. Vital crosswalk with mom, brother Tuesday morning

People who knew an eight-year-old Winnipeg boy who was killed while using a crosswalk with his mom and little brother remembered him for his infectious smile as they said goodbye one last time Saturday.

Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam at a funeral, burial service and then finally reception for the little boy who died on Tuesday.

"He was such a handsome child and he's very curious, he was always happy and he loved to live and loved to play and loved people," said Jordan Sebatu, a close family friend who knew Surafiel his whole life.

Members of Winnipeg's Eritrean community lined up outside to get a spot inside a packed church for a reception.

The ​Grade 3 student died Tuesday morning while on his way to École Varennes school, when he was hit by a pickup truck in a crosswalk on St. Anne's Road.

"The family is devastated, obviously. It's a tragic loss," said Lambros Kyriakakos, chair of the city's Eritrean community board and a family friend.

Kyriakakos said Surafiel's mom, who was crossing with her boy and another son when he was hit right in front of her, was left traumatized after the deadly crash.

"When she describes it to the people that come and visit her, it's even hard to hear it," he said. "Everything unfolded in front of mom and this is a very traumatic experience and still, for the family, hard to overcome."

The boy's mom Adiam Weldeyohannes sat with Surafiel's dad at the front of St. Mary's Road United Church in front of hundreds who came out for a reception for the boy, including kids and Surafiel's school principal.

Weldeyohannes, who came to Canada with her family eight years ago, told CBC her boy loved playing with Lego. She was too shaken to do an interview and had Sebatu speak on her behalf.

Jordan Sebatu is a close family friend and knew Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam since birth. (Tanner Grywinski/CBC)

Kyriakakos said Surafiel's mother had called a cab to take her boys to school that morning, but it was late so she decided to walk with the two. She was just a couple of feet behind her son when he was hit.

The family wants the public to know she was crossing with Surafiel, Kyriakakos said, because many are under the impression the boy was alone while crossing.

Surveillance video reviewed by CBC News on Wednesday showed the boy getting ready to enter the crosswalk Tuesday morning and a car coming to a stop in the curb lane.

A truck travelling in the second lane is seen on a second camera going through the crosswalk without stopping. Winnipeg police haven't laid charges but said their investigation is ongoing, and a charge under the Highway Traffic Act is possible.

Since the deadly crash, several parents and people living in the St. Vital neighbourhood have come forward with safety concerns about the crosswalk at St. Anne's Road and Varennes Avenue. Sebatu said the family previously had a close call at the same crosswalk, four months ago.

Manitoba Public Insurance said there have been an average of five crashes at the intersection per year over the past decade, although the collisions have not involved pedestrians and there had been no fatalities in that period until Tuesday.

CBC News has also obtained a video from 2016 that shows a cyclist being hit at the crosswalk and Brian Mayes, the city councillor for the area, said a resident contacted him about the intersection in 2012, suggesting the crosswalk be replaced by a traffic light.

Sebatu said the little boy was known for his smile; he liked to hug and loved to play soccer.

The boy was born in Brandon and came to Winnipeg to get baptised before his family relocated to the city, she said. Kyriakakos said the family is grateful to everyone who supported them, including Winnipeg police, paramedics, Health Sciences Centre staff and the Eritrean community of Winnipeg.

Sebatu asked to thank the person who gave CPR to Surafiel. "I know he's going through a lot," she said, tearing up.

Surafiel was buried at St. Vital Park Cemetery Saturday afternoon following the funeral.


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