Tow truck driver 'destroyed' after five-year-old's death

Written by Gabrielle Giroday, courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press

Kent Dueck of Inner City Youth Alive is asking for traffic changes and better monitoring of children’s movements. While a family grieves the loss of a little boy, a friend of the tow truck driver who ran over the child says the collision has left the driver devastated.

Rick Patterson said Monday the 52-year-old driver with Dr. Hook Towing is a father and grandfather who is “destroyed” by Friday’s fatal incident in the North End that claimed the life of five-year-old Kristian Mercer.

“Picture yourself running over a little kid and then everybody pointing the finger and blaming you,” said Patterson, 46, who’s known the driver since he was 17 years old.

Winnipeg police made it clear Monday the driver has not been charged in the death of the boy, adding the man did not attempt to leave the scene, as had been previously reported.
The child was riding a bike Friday evening when he was struck by a flatbed tow truck across from a busy playground at the intersection of Charles Street and Manitoba Avenue.

The boy was killed instantly. Patterson said the driver hasn’t slept since the collision. “I don’t think he’ll ever come back (to work),” said Patterson.

Police said he used his two-way radio to call for help after he realized he hit the boy, and did not flee the crash scene.

Patterson said his friend is so upset he’s not focusing on the possibility he could still face charges, as the investigation into the fatality continues.

“His prime concern is not what’s going to happen to him… it’s what he’s done.”

Police said it’s still unclear whether the driver stopped at a four-way stop at Charles and Manitoba before the boy was hit.

Police questioned and then released the driver.

Part of the challenge for investigators will be interviewing children who witnessed the terrible crash.

“Most of our witnesses to this incident are small, very small, children or young adults,” said Const. Natalie Aitken, spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service.

“We actually do not have very many adults who have witnessed this.”

Aitken said investigators are searching for a vehicle that travelled eastbound on Manitoba Avenue and stopped at Charles Street just before the crash.

The victim’s family lives on Selkirk Avenue, about 250 metres from the park.

Family and friends have posted handwritten messages at a roadside memorial set up to honour the life of the little boy, thanking mourners for their gifts of flowers, stuffed animals and handwritten cards.

Kent Dueck, executive director of Aberdeen Avenue’s Inner City Youth Alive, said the area needs better traffic signage and speed bumps, as well as vigilant monitoring of children who attempt to navigate the streets themselves.

About 60 to 100 kids come to the centre every day, and Dueck said the kids need better crosswalks.

Luis Escobar, manager of transportation for the city’s public works department, said the public has not made any requests for a traffic study to determine if speed bumps or other traffic-calming measures are needed near where the crash occurred.