Two mums’ lives were torn apart when this boy died in a school zone

Kevin Quintal was only five when he died as he walked to school.

He was crossing at an intersection, in the Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove, when a car being driven by another mum – taking her own sons to school – hit him.

The little boy was cradled in the arms of a nearby resident as they waited for paramedics to arrive, but nothing could be done to save him.

The driver was taken to hospital in shock and has since been charged with negligent driving occasioning death, which carries a maximum sentence of 18 months for the first offence.

Remarkably, Kevin’s family have spoken out in support of the driver, saying they don’t want her to serve any jail time. His mother Marilyn said: “A jail sentence does not achieve anything, it does not bring back Kevin. It is so unlucky this has occurred – it really could have happened to anyone.”

Hurstville City Council had been asked to improve "speed calming measures" where Kevin was killed. The request was denied just days before this terrible accident. Mayor Jack Jacovou is now awaiting a completed coroner’s report before deciding on any safety improvements to the area.

Kevin's funeral was held on what was supposed to be his last day of kindergarten. He'd been carrying a Bob The Builder backpack filled with Christmas cards for his classmates. 

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Kevin's tragic death revived a memory that I've replayed in my head over and over again.

We’d just moved to the suburbs in Sydney’s north-west, a few streets away from where I’d grown up. At the time my children were five, one and my daughter was just weeks old. I imagined myself and my little family exploring it together, walking everywhere, eating ice cream on the way home.

I got them ready for our very first walk to the shops. We were so excited. Philip had his hat on and Giovanni and Caterina were in the double pram. Philip was holding onto the pram strap and we started our walk.

I live on a quiet street but to get to the shops we had to walk along the main road and a new intersection had just built. Previously you could turn left onto the main road without any lights, but they had just been put in and it was to be expected that some locals would be confused.

We were waiting to cross when the green man popped up and it was our turn to walk. I went to push the pram and cross the road but Philip complained that he had something in his shoe. I pulled the pram back, bent down to fix Philip’s shoe and a car went flying through the red light, at speed. We wouldn’t have stood a chance.

I think of how it would have played out. Philip was walking on that side so he would have been hit first. Since that day I have driven us everywhere, no matter how short the trip.

I have incredible admiration for Kevin's mum, to have such courage and capacity for forgiveness.

Marilyn is right – we’ve all been in a rush to drop our children off at school and pick them up. But remember that it’s better to be late than to have a terrible accident. When there are children around, slow down, keep an eye out and be aware that they may dart out in front of you at any time. They are kids, after all. School zones slow drivers down and driving with awareness will do even more to keep children safe around schools.

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