Witness to Knight St. collision critical of bystander racism

Political intolerance elsewhere allowing for less decency and respect in Canada, fears Vancouver man

A witness to a distressing multi-vehicle collision Sunday night said he was troubled by the deeply insensitive insults and racial slurs hurled at a driver after she collided with on-coming traffic on Knight Street.

Jonathan Wornell was driving north on Knight Street when, after crossing 45th Avenue, he witnessed a dark sedan cross the centre line into south-bound lanes and accelerate towards the intersection at 41st Avenue at approximately 8:30 p.m. He estimated he was going 60 km/h at the time.

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“She was moving away from us at a rapid rate,” said Wornell, who was in his car with his wife, nine-year-old daughter and two of her friends. “She was not swerving. She was driving straight. It was a very surreal thing. By the time she made impact, she probably topped out at over 100 km/h.”

The street lights at East 41st Avenue and Knight Street had just changed, stopping east- and west-bound vehicles while giving south- and north-bound traffic the green light. The speeding sedan drove directly towards three lanes of vehicles that had not yet begun to enter the intersection, said Wornell.

“The on-coming traffic must have seen us and didn’t move,” he said. “She plowed into those cars.”

Approximately six cars were hit, but there were no evident serious injuries.

The collision could have been much worse had traffic been flowing, added Wornell.

Wornell and his wife, Darnelle Moore, parked their vehicle and rushed to the scene where they helped pull an 18-year-old high school student out through the front passenger window. The teenager wore braces and was bleeding slightly from the mouth but was coherent and speaking with Moore while Wornell drove his young passengers home and then returned to the scene.

The female driver did not appear to acknowledge the people who tried to help her from the vehicle. She was pulled through the passenger-side window without making a sound or speaking, said Wornell.

Her blank demeanour suggested she was unwell and possibly suffering a mental break, he said. The teenager was shouting at her, but she did not seem to respond. According to Wornell, the teenager said the woman was his mother.

“She didn’t show any expression. She didn’t say anything at all,” said Wornell.

And then the scene took a troubling turn for the hateful and intolerant.

People began to shout at the woman, said Wornell, launching angry insults and escalating to racial epithets.

“When I tried to calm people down, they said to me, ‘F--- you, Trudeau-hugger.’”

Through the verbal attacks, the woman still did not appear to respond to her situation.

The knee-jerk abuse is symptomatic of broader political unrest and instability that invites division and mistrust, said Wornell.

“This is just the escalation of all that has been going on,” he said. “It is giving people this privilege to act in a certain way that had normally, previously been unacceptable.”

It was especially troubling to see verbal attacks levied at a person who, Wornell said, was evidently suffering from mental illness.

“Just last week was about all about awareness, with Bell Let’s Talk, and then this happens.

The Vancouver Police Department did not immediately reply to a media request Monday afternoon.

If you witnessed this collision, please contact us at mstewart@vancourier.com or 604-738-1411.

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