Family of Ottawa boy who died in bridge jump files $2 million lawsuit

File photo of the Prince of Wales Bridge spanning the Ottawa River between Ottawa, ON. and Gatineau, QC.

The family of an Ottawa boy who died after jumping off the Prince of Wales Bridge into the Ottawa River two years ago is suing the city of Ottawa for $2 million.

The statement of claim, filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month, alleges the city of Ottawa was negligent and should have known the bridge posed significant danger. It also claims the city failed to take steps to prevent people from accessing the bridge and have a “sufficient authoritative presence” to deter people from using the bridge.

Vimy Grant, 14, died after jumping off the Prince of Wales Bridge into the Ottawa River on July 3, 2020.

“Like many others that day, with access to the Bridge being easy because of the City’s failure to install adequate barriers, Vimy and his friends were taking turns jumping into the water below the bridge,” said the statement of claim, filed by lawyers Lawrence Greenspon and Tina Hill.

“Vimy and his friends had visited the Bridge multiple times before July 3, 2020. They were not aware that they were not supposed to be there as so many people were also there whenever they visited the bridge.”

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

The city of Ottawa says the statement of claim was served this week.

“The City will respond to that Claim, in due course,” City Solicitor David White said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa. “In keeping with its standard approach in matters that are before the courts, the City will not be providing further comment in respect of the Claim.”

Grant did not resurface after jumping off the bridge. His body was found three days later along the shore of the Ottawa River.

The statement of claim was filed on behalf of Vimy Grant’s parents, Eilis and Justin, his half-sister and grandparents.

According to the statement of claim, the city and Ottawa police received at least 26 calls in 2020 advising them that there were trespassers on the bridge. It adds the bridge was being accessed by people specifically for the purpose of jumping into the Ottawa River.

“The city of Ottawa was aware, or should have been aware, that the Bridge was being used in this way and that it was unsafe for people to be jumping into the River from the bridge,” the claim says. “Despite having this knowledge, the City of Ottawa took no steps, or ineffective steps, to prevent people from trespassing on the Bridge and from jumping into the River from the Bridge.”

The city of Ottawa purchased the Prince of Wales Bridge from Canadian Pacific Railway in 2005.  Work is underway to turn the bridge into a new multi-use pathway connecting Ottawa and Gatineau.

Construction on the new multi-use pathway will be completed this fall. The city says the bridge continues to be off-limits to the public during construction.

“The construction to rehabilitate the Chief William Commanda Bridge (previously known as the Prince of Wales Bridge) into a temporary multi-use pathway began in the fall of 2021 and is ongoing,” said Carina Duclos, Director of Infrastructure Services.

“During the construction phase, the Bridge continues to be inaccessible to the public, and previous patrol initiatives and barricades remain in place, along with additional standard safety and security measures for construction sites. Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2022. The City of Ottawa would like to remind everyone that trespassing into a construction site is not permitted and is not safe.”

Duclos says public safety “remains a top priority” for the city with the design of the new multi-use pathway.

“Safety features and considerations – such as railing and platform design, lighting, and signage – were evaluated and incorporated into the design of the multi-use pathway. The City will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to maintain the safety of users once the multi-use pathway is in operation.”