A four-year-old girl died after falling under an allegorical car Saturday night at a Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth, N.S., police said.
"A very tragic incident, very traumatic for everyone involved in the parade and the venue," Cpl said. Dal Hutchinson, Nova Scotia RCMP.
"My understanding is that there were a lot of people around when that happened. So our thoughts are now with this girl's family, since it's a very difficult time, but also with the community, with people who were there watching the parade."
The incident happened just before 7:00 p.m. near the intersection of Main Street and Starrs Road in Yarmouth, about an hour after the start of the Yarmouth Christmas Lights Parade.
"She was not in the allegorical car. She was running beside the moving float when it fell under the buoy," Hutchinson said.
Police did not release the child's name.
But on Sunday afternoon, the Tri-County Regional Education Center announced that the girl was a pre-primary student.
In an email, the center said members of its crisis management team will be in schools on Tuesday morning (Monday was a scheduled day off for students) to provide support to staff and students.
"Suddenly we just heard screams"
Vance Webb, a retired engineer who lives on the outskirts of Yarmouth, attended the Saturday parade with his wife, stepson and three grandchildren.
"We were just watching the parade, and then about 10 feet away, I heard – suddenly the float stopped, and I kind of saw something on the ground," Webb told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview .
"Then, all of a sudden, we just heard screams. It was very close to us."
Webb said that the whole scene descended into "chaos" when people realized what had happened.
"People less than 15 feet away – none of us are okay.All adults were crying.Anywhere I saw, there were hundreds of people crying," Webb said. "This will really affect the city."
In a subsequent interview with CBC News, Webb noted that there were cars parked on both sides of the road during the parade. He said people were on the street in front of the cars to get a better view.
"I've never seen this before in a parade," Webb said. "It just reduced visibility and created a tight spot on the road and we thought that was not right from the start."
To make the show safer next year, Webb suggested that volunteers walk alongside floats to make sure no one gets too close. He also suggested that the parade during the day could also make it safer.
"I'm not sure if that contributed to that, but it's a possibility," Webb said.
The organizers of the parade, known as the Christmas Parade, addressed the situation in a Facebook post Sunday morning, saying they were "devastated by the traumatic accident."
"We, along with the community, regret the familys' [sic] loss and are praying for all those affected. The focus is on uniting as a community and helping this family at a very difficult time, "the post says.
Tonight I spoke to the Mayor of Yarmouth @PamMood to offer my condolences to the whole community for this weekend's tragedy in the city's Santa Claus parade. As a parent, words fail at times like this. Our thoughts are with the family of the young victim and with all those affected.
& # 39; A huge tragedy & # 39;
The girl was immediately treated on the spot by RCMP officers and Emergency Health Services. She was taken to Yarmouth Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Mayor Pam Mood was not in the community parade, but said that now is the time for the community to unite.
"This is a huge tragedy, something you could never dream of," Mood told CBC News.
"So now, this whole community is in mourning [and] very worried about the family, the first rescuers, anyone involved in it. The community is just spending our time comforting each other and making sure everyone is well. "
Humor says that thousands of people come to watch the parade every year. She said the parade is an annual tradition in the city for about 20 years.
She says mayors and colleagues from across Nova Scotia volunteered to offer support to the city. The prime minister also expressed his condolences to the city.
Sean Mills, Yarmouth's father and fisherman, has begun a fundraising campaign to fund the funeral.
"It's just a tragedy, it's an accident and it's terrible. We all have children and it could have been any of our children, we were all at the parade last night," Mill said.
Mills said he knew the money would not make the family feel better, but said it would ease the financial burden.
"I have a son the same age and it's terrible news, there's nothing good about it," he said.
"I think the whole community feels exactly the same way, they know it's terrible. It must be a good time of year and a tragedy happens and it just completely changes."
Looking for help
Hutchinson said he knew there were many people who witnessed the incident and suggested that people might want to ask for help, including first responders, who will be assisted if asked.
"If you're struggling with what you've witnessed, it's very important to talk about it and seek help to deal with those emotions," he said.
A grief reduction specialist will be at the Rodd Grand hotel in Yarmouth at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for those who need to talk about this tragedy.
An RCMP spokesman said police were not seeking to file criminal charges.