West Kelowna  

Driver worries for boy

A young boy with Down syndrome is in still in B.C. Children's Hospital after he was struck by a van in West Kelowna.

Jonah Pevach is suffering from multiple injuries, including 10 broken ribs, a broken collarbone, possible neck and cheekbone injuries and collapsed lungs.

His family is understandably worrying by his side and helping their son heal, but how the accident happened is stirring debate.

At first, the story was told from the boy's father's point of view. The driver was labelled as driving too quickly through the complex and striking the boy.

An employee of the driver called later that day and told Castanet a different story, that the driver was not at fault. He claims the child was lying in front of the vehicle and that kids were running all around.

Now, more people have come forward with their accounts, including the driver himself. He agreed to share his version of events with Castanet through the complex's management organization, Okanagan Métis & Aboriginal Housing Society.

Administrator Susan Walker says the driver is severely depressed and worrying constantly about Jonah.

“He left the unit he was painting at about 4:10 p.m., and drove slowly through the parking lot when two girls drove their bikes close to his van,” shares Walker. “He stopped only for a few seconds and started driving again when he saw the route was clear.”

It appears that Jonah was somewhere in front of the vehicle, and when the driver realized he hit the boy he ran out his van and carried Jonah to the grass, trying to find his parents.

“It was at that time that his father came out of his unit and was in obvious distress,” claims the driver. “The painter apologized over and over again, but in Jonah's parent's distress, he could only blame the painter for what had happened.”

He was also reported as wearing headphones. The driver wears them because he is deaf and they are a form of hearing aid.  

“The painter is so terribly sorry that this has happened and just wants Jonah to heal quickly,” adds Walker. “Unfortunately, it is going to be some time before the painter will heal as well.”

A woman named Leah called our newsroom to corroborate the driver's story. Her 11-year-old son was playing in the complex and saw the accident.

“He told me the little boy was just lying in the middle of the road and the driver didn't see him,” says Leah. “He said he was going really slow and didn't see the little boy lying in the road.”

Leah says her son was visibly upset when he got home.

Several reports have indicated that the complex has a history of kids running unsafely through the roads – a point confirmed by Okanagan Métis & Aboriginal Housing Society.

Walker says the site manager has told the children numerous times to play elsewhere, and she says the office is constantly reminding parents they must supervise their children.

Both the driver and OMAHS want to make it clear that regardless of the circumstances, a young boy is injured in hospital and a family is in pain.

“This appears to have been a very unfortunate accident, no one to blame,” says Walker. “We can only hope that everyone can move on to healing, especially Jonah.”

RCMP Cpl. Joe Duncan says police are still investigating the accident. The driver has not been charged.

A GoFundMe account was set up by friends of the family to help Jonah's family, who are now under financial strain as they stay by his bed in Vancouver. In less than two days, the community has rallied and raised more than $8,600.

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