Tributes left at the scene. Picture: David Caird
Tributes left at the scene. Picture: David Caird

Anatomy of ‘notorious’ intersection

AIVY Nguyen was doing what so many other school-aged kids do every weekday morning and afternoon.

She was trying to negotiate one of Melbourne's busiest intersections about 7am on Wednesday when her life was taken from her.

Her backpack lay on the bitumen for hours after she was hit by a truck turning onto Maroondah Highway in Ringwood, east of Melbourne. The driver did not stop and Aivy, 14, died in the Royal Children's Hospital from suspected head injuries hours later.

As friends and family come to grips with the tragic loss of the teen from Flemington's Mount Alexander College and a 39-year-old man helps detectives with their inquiries, the focus is turning to the intersection itself.

In total, it includes four pedestrian crossings, 16 lanes of traffic, four service roads and dozens of traffic lights. It channels tens of thousands of drivers each day from all directions past nearby Heatherdale Railway Station in one direction and onto the busy EastLink toll road a few hundred metres away in the other.

And authorities allegedly knew how dangerous it was long before Wednesday's incident tore a family and a school community apart.

 

 

Maroondah City Council has not responded to news.com.au's request for comment but a former traffic engineer told the Herald Sun the intersection has long been considered a safety problem for pedestrians.

"This intersection has always been a problem," he said. "Largely due to the need to provide access to the service road, which has compromised pedestrian access and safety."

The service road runs adjacent to Dampier Grove where the truck that struck Aivy was travelling. It turned left across the service road and on to Maroondah Highway towards Croydon and Lilydale as Aivy attempted to cross.

Pedestrians crossing where Aivy was struck get the green crossing light. There is no left turn arrow from Dampier Grove on to Maroondah Highway, only a light.

Local business workers said the same thing on Wednesday. They told reporters the intersection was "notorious", a known black spot where accidents happen "twice a week" and dangerous to cross. A father-of-two whose daughter attends a nearby school, told Fairfax he has to "have my hands up to make the car stop, they don't stop ... they don't see the pedestrian crossing and still they want to go fast".

Family members, including Aivy’s younger sister, 10, visit the scene on Wednesday night. Picture: David Caird
Family members, including Aivy’s younger sister, 10, visit the scene on Wednesday night. Picture: David Caird

 

But VicRoads is saying very little as the investigation takes place. On Wednesday, when approached by news.com.au, they would not reveal how many crashes have occurred there in recent years, but did confirm a serious accident took place in July 2017 that left one person with serious injuries.

According to the Herald Sun, letters from VicRoads show the authority had reviewed the crossing as recently as last year.

The intersection reportedly became even more dangerous after an access point to Heatherdale station was changed to accommodate works. It means people have to cross at the opposite side of the road. Sue Langley, a local business owner, says there is a "lot less visibility" and a "lot more traffic" across the new pedestrian access area.

Maroondah Highway has long been on the list of Victoria's most dangerous roads. According to insurance company AAMI, there were 187 claims in 2016, making it the seventh worst in the state. The previous year it was ranked 14th.

Aivy's family members prayed and lit candles at the intersection on Wednesday night where flowers and letters were left on lightpoles. The teen's grieving mother sobbed and clutched relatives, including her younger daughter, aged 10.

Tributes left at the scene. Picture: David Caird
Tributes left at the scene. Picture: David Caird

 

"Aivy would always look after her little sister," her cousin Kimberly said. "They were joined at the hip. She was smart and innocent. She was adorable."

One letter left at the makeshift memorial read: "You were young and your life was tragically taken. Our thoughts and love to your family. We don't know you but you have touched us."

Police are speaking with the driver of the truck after it's believed he initially fled the scene. A black Makita-branded truck was discovered at Holmesglen Tafe hours after the incident.

In a statement to news.com.au, Makita's managing director Shigeru Okada said the company was co-operating with authorities.

"The company is deeply saddened by today's accident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the young girl who lost her life.

"Our driver is assisting police and the company will co-operate in any way we can," Mr Okada said.

A witness told Fairfax he watched the whole thing unfold.

"I saw the (driver) going to make the turn and was thinking 'Is he gonna stop and give way?' ... That poor girl. I helped with others the best I could."



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