Family of boy who died jumping off abandoned bridge sues city of Ottawa for negligence

Vimy Grant, 14, did not surface after attempting a pencil dive in the Ottawa River

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The family of a boy who drowned after jumping from the top of the Prince of Wales Bridge into the Ottawa River has filed a $1.5 million negligence charge against the city.

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Vimy Grant, 14, climbed onto the bridge through holes in a fence the city of Ottawa had put up to prevent people from using the abandoned railroad crossing.

Vimy and his friends had visited the decommissioned bridge several times before the tragedy on the evening of July 3, 2020.

The claim statement, filed late last month, says the city and police have received 26 phone calls advising them about intruders in 2020, but have taken no effective measures to prevent or prevent access to the bridge. prevent people from jumping from the superstructure. The top of the bridge is about three stories above the water.

Vimy didn’t surface after diving into the river with a pencil. His body was recovered three days later.

“It (the city) knew or should have known that the bridge posed a significant danger to the public, especially the youth,” the claim states.

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Grant family attorney Lawrence Greenspon said the city’s negligence contributed to Vimy’s death.

“They knew the bridge posed a great danger to the public, they knew that,” Greenspon said in an interview Monday. “They have taken some steps to try and deter the use of this dangerous bridge, but they haven’t done enough.”

The Prince of Wales Bridge.
The Prince of Wales Bridge. Photo by Ashley Fraserpost media

The lawsuit says the regional coroner and the City of Ottawa conducted a safety assessment of the bridge after Vimy’s death, and recommended that the structure be reused or redesigned. It also recommended adding lighting to the bridge and a motion-detecting alarm system to discourage nighttime activities.

Despite those recommendations, the lawsuit alleges, the city has made “no real improvements to the bridge or surrounding areas to increase safety.”

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That passivity, the substance of the lawsuit, led to another “senseless and unnecessary” death the following year. Eric Cam, a graduate of Algonquin College, died on June 20, 2021 after jumping off the same railroad bridge.

Cam, 26, of London, Ontario, had recently landed a job at Ottawa-based animation studio, Atomic Cartoons, when he drowned in the Ottawa River.

Work is now underway to renovate the bridge, which was renamed last year in honor of Chief William Commanda, to make it a multi-purpose path. The $22.6 million project is funded by the city with $8.6 million help from the federal government.

The repurposed bridge will include a railing of steel cables and a lighted path.

The City of Ottawa has not yet filed a statement of defense in the case.

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Carina Duclos, Ottawa’s director of infrastructure services, said the city will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to maintain the safety of people using the repurposed Chief William Commanda Bridge. “Safety features and considerations – such as railing and platform design, lighting and signage – were evaluated and incorporated into the design of the multi-purpose pathway,” she said.

At the time of Vimy’s death in 2020, Kevin Wylie, general manager of the city’s public works and environmental services division, said signs, chains and fences had been installed to prevent people from accessing the bridge. In addition, he said, city officials conducted daily patrols of the bridge to conduct inspections and ensure repairs were completed quickly.

Greenspon argues that the steps the city took did not prevent access to the superstructure of the aging bridge.

The City of Ottawa purchased the 142-year-old bridge and rail corridors in 2005 for $11 million, based on the belief that it could be used to connect light rail systems in Ottawa and Gatineau, but Mayor Jim Watson later declared that plan impracticable. .

A popular, high-spirited boy close to his family, Vimy played hockey for the Ottawa West Golden Knights and loved football, soccer, martial arts, and basketball. Vimy had just finished 8th grade at Omer-Deslauriers School when he died.

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