Wed. May 18th, 2022

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OTTAWA – The lawyer for a family in Ottawa whose teenage son drowned after jumping off this city’s Prince of Wales Bridge last summer, says he can not understand how municipal officials could allow the same kind of tragedy to happen again – less than a years later.

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A 26-year-old man from London died Sunday afternoon after jumping from the bridge to the Ottawa River. His body was found late Sunday by police divers.

Ottawa’s Vimy Grant, 14, died in a strikingly similar incident last year. Attorney Lawrence Greenspon called the city’s failure to take the necessary steps to secure the bridge against criminals “shocking.”

“You have to ask yourself how many young people are going to die before the city of Ottawa takes the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again,” said Greenspon, who acts for Eilis and Justin Grant, Vimy’s parents.

“You would have thought that after a tragedy they would have taken the necessary steps to ensure that it does not happen again. They obviously do not have that. ”

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Vimy Grant
Vimy Grant

Vimy Grant died on the evening of July 3, 2020 after jumping from the top of the missing railroad bridge into the river. He had climbed up the bridge with a group of friends through holes in a fence that Ottawa City Hall had erected to prevent people from accessing the rails.

His body was found three days later; the cause of death concluded that he had drowned.

Greenspon said he spoke with the Grant family on Monday.

“They do not feel surprising that Vimy Grant died in vain,” he said. “They are desperate and they are praying for the family of this young London man.”

The family has sued Ottawa City Hall for not blocking access to the bridge adequately. Greenspon said Vimy’s family wants the bridge completely inaccessible or torn down so no one else will suffer the pain they have endured.

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The city of Ottawa bought the 141-year-old bridge and its railroad corridors in 2005 for $ 11 million based on the belief they could be used to connect light rail systems in Ottawa and Gatineau. Mayor Jim Watson has since declared that plan can not work, and has turned its attention to recreating the Prince of Wales into a multi-purpose pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

A press conference had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday with Watson, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and several federal cabinet ministers, including Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna. They were expected to announce federal funding for the revitalization of the bridge.

This press conference was canceled Monday morning following news of the latest tragedy.

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Troy Charter, director of transit operations for the city of Ottawa, said city officials are awaiting details from Ottawa police investigations into the latest fatal incident. “Our hearts are with all who mourn,” he said.

Ottawas Prince of Wales Bridge
Ottawas Prince of Wales Bridge

He said the city is continuing to take steps to prevent breaches at the Prince of Wales Bridge and that city staff are patrolling the bridge daily. “Staff conduct regular inspections and ensure that any necessary repairs are carried out immediately,” the Charter said.

Signage, chains and fences have been put in place, he said, and sheet metal was installed last year at the southern entrance and along Lemieux Island to deter intruders. Discussions are also taking place, he said, on ways to increase the safety of the bridge.

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In December, the Ottawa City Council approved $ 540.000 for an environmental assessment of the bridge project, and preliminary design work. Previous estimates have put the cost of recycling the bridge at around $ 10 million.

Two weeks ago, a friend of Vimy’s parents, Duane Smith, posted a picture on Facebook showing the north side of the bridge wide open to offenders. “Anyone can access the bridge from the Quebec side,” he said in an interview Monday. “It’s a gate, a fence that is wide open.”

Smith said Ottawa City Hall has done significant work on Lemieux Island in an effort to make the bridge inaccessible, but that holes remain in the fence.

-Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa Citizen

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