Girl, 5, fatally struck in school parking lot had already fought cancer in her short life, family friend says
Ana Paula Carrera describes 5-year-old Camila Torcato, who died Monday, as an 'angel'
A little Toronto girl, who died in hospital Monday after being crushed by an SUV in a drop-off area at an elementary school, was recently given a clean bill of health after fighting cancer since the age of three.
"She was definitely an angel," said Ana Paula Carrera of five-year-old Camila Torcato.
Carrera, a family friend and a mother herself who has been with the grieving family every day this week, told CBC Toronto on Wednesday she finds herself thinking about a conversation that the little girl's mother, Catarina Rodrigues, had repeated to her.
Carrera said the child told her mother, speaking in Portuguese, "Mom, I'm not a normal child. I'm different than everyone else," and words to the effect of "I'm not of this world."
On Monday at around 3:30 p.m. ET, Camila was about to climb into the family's minivan at St. Raphael Catholic School in North York when an unoccupied vehicle rolled into the little girl and her father, Amilcar Torcato. Camila was rushed to SickKids, where she died of her injuries. Her father was also briefly hospitalized and released.
Carrera said this week she finds herself remembering a moment with the little girl just before Christmas. She was cuddling the child in her lap in the living room of the Torcato home in the predominantly Italian-Portuguese neighbourhood near Lawrence and Dufferin.
The little girl was showing her some toys and makeup videos on her mother's cellphone.
Carrera, herself the mother of four boys, said, laughing, "There is no makeup in my house."
Carrera remembers being struck by the little girl's hair. "Earlier she had lost all her hair because of the cancer treatment," said Carrera. "I keep remembering the feel of her skin. It was so soft and I was thinking how soft and strong her hair was again."
Carrera got to know the family in the first few years after Camila was born, living a few doors up the street. There were more boys on the street than girls so Carrera says Camila was always playing with boys.
"She was very adventurous," said Carrera, "but she was also always careful, watching the little ones. She'd warn me, 'Nicholas (Carrera's youngest son) is on the slide, or the baby put something in his mouth.' She was always concerned about other little kids."
Camila's parents are heartbroken, said Carrera. "But I see they're very strong. I see the love as a family, when you're seeing them together, that somehow Camila still gives to them."
Police are still investigating what happened at the school's drop-off area.
Brian Patterson, head of the Ontario Safety League, also visited the scene of the accident at St. Raphael School.
Speaking on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday, Patterson says he's attended many meetings to raise safety issues around school pickup areas. Even when they're marked, he says they are often the most dangerous part of a child's trip to school.
"The last five minutes of a child's travel, they're probably in the riskiest zone as people come speeding in, speeding out, attempting to make up time," Patterson said.
"Dropping off the heir to the family fortune is the most important thing on their mind, not the 100 or so other kids that are going to move through that space in the same time that they are there."
A GoFundMe page for the family has raised more than $30,000. The post cites the double tragedy of Camila's short life, dealing with cancer at three, only to be killed at five.
"The only thing that we can believe is that she was a true angel," the page reads.
"The people who really suffer from these type of events are the parents who have to live on without their child and they deserve all the support that they can get so they can find peace, without the financial stress that our society can create.'
"A lot of people are trying to help them," said Carrera. "They don't want a funeral. They might just have Camila in the funeral home."
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-1900, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and a message to CRIMES (274637).