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City crews add hay bales, remove signposts at Mooney's Bay following fatal sledding accident

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A young girl has died in a tobogganing accident at Mooney’s Bay Park and city crews are now working to make the hill safer.

Emergency crews were called to the hill on Riverside Drive at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

Ottawa police said the young person involved in the accident was taken to CHEO, where she later died.

No further details about the accident were released Monday evening, nor was the identity of the victim.

"The Ottawa Police Service continues to work with City of Ottawa partners to investigate the incident and enhance public safety," police said.

City crews were out Tuesday placing hay bales around lamps and other hard metal posts. Staff also removed some of the thin metal signage from the area.

"The safety and security of all is the City’s top priority. Unfortunately, a tragic accident occurred, and the City takes this incident seriously. As such, the City will be patrolling the area this week to ensure compliance and that all users of the area are participating only in recreation activities that are permitted. Out of an abundance of caution, the City will also be closing the parking lot nearest to the hill to discourage its use and is removing some signs and posts in the park," said Dan Chenier, the city's general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

Parents told CTV News Ottawa they were devastated by the news of the tragic accident.

"After hearing what happened, I’m really shocked and from now on I’ll stay just here on the ground, just on the play structure and I hope the other parents will do the same while we’re waiting for what the city can do for us," said Christiane Reis.

"We have to be safe. We have to wear helmets, but I think the city has to make a solution for all of us because we want to have fun with our kids, we want to go places that are safe."

River Ward coun. Riley Brockington issued a statement on Twitter about the tragedy.

“I am deeply saddened on the news of a fatal accident involving a girl, at the base (river-side) of Mooney’s Bay Hill,” said Brockington Monday evening.

“The hill is closed to the public and city staff will assess the area in the morning."

Hill not meant for sledding: City

Mooney’s Bay Park is a popular spot for sledding in the winter, though the city says in a statement it's not meant to be a toboggan hill.

"The hill at Mooney’s Bay is part of the landscape of the park and is not a sledding hill. It was closed as a sledding hill in 2017 due to hazards on-site, including trees, the Rideau River, the Terry Fox Athletic Facility, a parking lot and other obstacles (such as cross-country skiers using the nearby trail)," said Chenier. "Signage was placed on site at that time advising park visitors that sledding and tobogganing on the hill are not safe and may result in extreme injury, including bodily harm or death."

However, sledding has remained popular at the hill. In January, the city said the hill was the site of overcrowding

Despite the city's efforts to improve safety at the park, Chenier stressed that the hill should not be used for sledding.

"The hill should not be considered safe for sledding. Residents are reminded to not use the hill for tobogganing or sledding and to ensure that their children abide by these restrictions," he wrote.

The city has a list of approved sledding hills on its website.

Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident and who did not speak with officers at the scene to contact the East Investigation Unit at (613) 236-1222 extension 3566.

Helmets and positioning can mitigate risk of severe injury: Expert

Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO of Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention, told CTV News Ottawa that head and spinal injuries are the biggest risks on a toboggan.

"The safest position on a toboggan is kneeling. Going down headfirst exposes your head to an impact if it does happen, and lying on your back increases risk of spine injury," Fuselli explained. "Your head and spine, that’s what we’re really worried about, those serious injuries, not the bumps and bruises of everyday life, so protect those."

She says wearing a ski helmet designed for winter use and making sure the toboggan is in good condition are important steps to minimizing the risk of serious injury. She also says to be aware of obstacles.

"Because you’re going down a hill at a speed, when you come up against something like a tree or a bench or a rock, or a person who’s stationary at the bottom of the hill, that sudden stop, that impact is what we want to avoid, and those pose the most dangerous risks in terms of injury," she said.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Colton Praill.

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