Reporting on unexpected deaths is one of the most difficult things a reporter can be assigned to do. They involve going to a family’s home, ringing on their doorbell, and hoping that their response will be a desire to talk rather than frustration and anger at all the media salivating for a juicy quote or exclusive interview.
Then there’s the interviews with neighbours. It used to be, once upon a time, that neighbours knew everything about each other. They socialized, borrowed cups of sugar from each other, and did all of those neighbourly things we hear about in the movies.
But even in a small community like Ile Perrot, neighbours today know embarrassingly little about each other. They stay indoors and surf the Internet. Conversations with neighbours tend to take place only when both have children who are the same age.
So when 3-year-old Bianca Leduc was killed last week, after two teenage drivers lost control of their speeding vehicles and ran her over, the quotes from neighbours were less than impressive. “She was a beautiful little girl who always seemed happy, but I didn’t really know her well,” says one neighbour who wouldn’t give a name. Another, who was also the mother’s landlord, could only muster a few words about how the mother always paid her rent on time.
Neighbours of Brandon Pardi, the 18-year-old charged in the case (the other is a 17-year-old friend who can’t be named because he’s underage), were similarly uninspiring in their quotes: “like the average kid, not more, not less” was one.
La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé managed to track down Pardi’s girlfriend (who insists this was an accident and he would never hurt anyone) and wrote this gut-wrenchingly emotional story (even he couldn’t keep his feelings in check).
It doesn’t take long after something like this for the blame game to start. Some target the lack of police presence on the island, others blame the fact that 17-year-olds are allowed to drive, still others blame the cars themselves. Supporters of Pardi seem to prefer to blame nobody, considering this a tragic accident.
Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but I blame the kids. Kids who speed recklessly, gambling over-confidently that their power steering, anti-lock brakes, high-traction tires and other safety features will prevent them from getting into an accident. Then, when their disregard for common sense results in injury (most often to others), they pretend like such an event could not possibly have been predicted.
Perhaps I’m wrong about this. Nothing has been proven yet in a court of law, and nobody can say for certain if the two drivers were reckless (or, technically, even if they were speeding).
Sadly, it doesn’t matter. Even if they’re haunted by the image of this little girl for the rest of their lives, or are convicted to decades-long sentences, there are plenty of other reckless drivers out there to cause even more death.
UPDATE: It’s interesting how this story will play out, since the victim was a cute, suburban white baby, while the suspects are rich, suburban white teenagers.
Bianka already has a Facebook group with a few hundred members. Pardi’s friends apparently set one up as well, though it doesn’t seem to be public anymore.
Lots of posts related to this story on this blog.
CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this post listed the girl’s name as “Bianka Leduc”, based on news reports. The media seem to have agreed on “Bianca” now as the spelling of her name.