Child killed by float at Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth, N.S.

A four-year-old girl is dead after falling beneath a float Saturday night at a Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth, N.S., police said. "A very tragic incident, very traumatic for everyone who was involved with the parade and at the scene," said Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

Police say 4-year-old girl's death Saturday evening 'traumatic for everyone who was involved with the parade'

A spokesperson for the RCMP in Nova Scotia said the girl was running alongside a moving float at the parade in downtown Yarmouth when she fell underneath it. (Robert Short/CBC)

A four-year-old girl is dead after falling beneath a float Saturday night at a Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth, N.S., police said. 

"A very tragic incident, very traumatic for everyone who was involved with the parade and at the scene," said Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, of the Nova Scotia RCMP. 

"My understanding is there were a lot of people nearby when this took place. So our thoughts right now are with this little girl's family, as it's a very difficult time, but also with the community, with people that were there watching the parade."

The incident happened just before 7 p.m. near the intersection of Main Street and Starrs Road in Yarmouth, about an hour after the Yarmouth Christmas Parade of Lights began. 

Vance Webb, a retired machinist who lives on the outskirts of Yarmouth, attended Saturday's parade with his wife, stepson and three grandchildren. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

"She was not on the float. She was running alongside of the moving float when she fell underneath the float," Hutchinson said.

Police have not released the name of the child.

Update: The girl has been identified as four-year-old MaCali Cormier of Yarmouth.

But on Sunday afternoon, the Tri-County Regional Centre for Education announced the girl was a pre-primary student.

In an email, the centre said members of its crisis management team will be at schools Tuesday morning (Monday was a scheduled day off for students) to provide support to staff and students.

'All of a sudden, we just heard screaming'

Vance Webb, a retired machinist who lives on the outskirts of Yarmouth, attended Saturday's parade with his wife, stepson and three grandchildren.

"We were just watching the parade, and then about 30 feet away, I hear — all of a sudden, the float stops, and I kinda see something on the ground," Webb told The Canadian Press in a phone interview.

"Then all of a sudden, we just heard screaming. It was pretty close to us."

The child was hit just before 7 p.m. near the intersection of Main Street and Starrs Road in Yarmouth, about an hour after the Yarmouth Christmas Parade of Lights began. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Webb said the entire scene descended into "mayhem" as people realized what had happened.

"People within 50 feet of it — none of us are OK. All the adults were crying. Everywhere I saw, there were hundreds of people crying," said Webb. "This is really gonna affect the town."

Pam Mood, the mayor of Yarmouth, says 'this entire community is mourning.' (Paul Poirier/CBC)

In a subsequent interview with CBC News, Webb noted there were cars parked on both sides of the road during the parade. He said people were standing on the street in front of the cars to get a better view.

"I never saw that before at a parade," Webb said. "It just reduced the visibility and created a narrow point on the road and we felt that was not right, right from the start."

To make the parade safer next year, Webb suggested having volunteers walk alongside floats to make sure no one gets too close. He also suggested having the parade during daylight hours could also make it safer.

"I'm not sure if that contributed to it, but that's a possibility," Webb said.

Organizers of the parade, known as the Christmas Parade of Lights, addressed the situation in a Facebook post Sunday morning, saying they were "devastated by the traumatic accident."

"We, along with the community, mourn the familys' [sic] loss and are praying for everyone affected. The focus is on coming together as a community and helping this family through a very difficult time," the post read.

'A huge tragedy'

The girl was treated at the scene immediately by RCMP officers and Emergency Health Services. She was taken to Yarmouth Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Sean Mills, a father and fisherman, started a fundraiser to cover the cost of the little girl's funeral. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Mayor Pam Mood wasn't at the community-run parade, but said now is a time for the community to come together.

"This is a huge tragedy, something you could never even dream of," Mood told CBC News.

"So right now, this entire community is mourning [and] very concerned for the family, the first responders, anybody involved in that. The community is just spending our time comforting each other and making sure everybody is OK."

Mood says thousands of people come to watch the parade every year. She said the parade has been an annual tradition in the town for about 20 years.

She says mayors and colleagues from across Nova Scotia have reached out to offer the town support. The Prime Minister also expressed his condolences to the town.

Sean Mills, a father and fisherman from Yarmouth, started a fundraising campaign to go toward funeral costs.

"It's just a tragedy, it's an accident and it's terrible. We all have kids and this could have been any one of our kids, we were all at the parade last night," Mill said.

Mills said he knows money won't make the family feel better, but said it will alleviate the financial burden. 

"I have a child around the same age and it's terrible news, there's no good at all in it," he said.

"I think the whole community in general feels the exact same way, they know it's terrible. It's supposed to be a good time of year and a tragedy happens and it just completely turns around."

Seeking help

Hutchinson said he knew there were many people who witnessed the incident and suggested that people may want to reach out for help, including first responders, who will be offered assistance if they ask for it.  

"If you're struggling with what you witnessed, it's very important to talk about it and seek some help to deal with those emotions," he said.

A grief reduction specialist will be at Yarmouth's Rodd Grand hotel at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for anyone who needs to talk about this tragedy.

An RCMP spokesperson said police are not looking at laying criminal charges.

With files from The Canadian Press, Shaina Luck, Anjuli Patil, Elizabeth McMillan and Angela MacIvor