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'He's our heart and joy': Father remembers young son killed in St. Thomas, Ont. crash

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Supported by his older children Jordan and Brooklyn, Chad Curtis wants nothing more than to have his youngest son back. Instead, he is sharing memories of his 11-year-old Aiden.

"He's our heart and joy. He's my youngest son. He's the most happy-go-lucky. If you ever met this boy, he's the greatest boy in the world. Everything you did for him he was just happy,” said Chad Curtis, Aiden’s father.

The young boy was returning from a trip to McDonald’s with his best friend Noah, Noah’s little brother Milo, and two adults when a pickup truck careened into the group at the intersection of Talbot Street, near Caso Crossing around 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

According to police, a truck was travelling westbound on Talbot Street when the driver jumped the curb and crashed into the group.

Aiden was pronounced deceased at the scene while four others were sent to hospital, one of which still remains in critical condition.

"He just finished grade six. His 12th birthday is on Monday, on the 10th. We just lost him before his birthday,” Chad said.

On Wednesday morning, people brought flowers and small plush toys to the scene, just in front of the Brunswick Hotel. Others stopped and bowed their heads for a short time to remember the young boy who loved video games and being friends.

A memorial has started to take shape at the site where a child was struck and killed by a vehicle in St. Thomas. July 5, 2023. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

Susan Grace works at a dry cleaners that's just half a block away from the crash site. Learning that the charges laid were related to drinking and driving, she said makes the situation even more heartbreaking.

"…Even more difficult to comprehend. Why? It's senseless. Just senseless," she said.

AnnMarie Brown lives a short distance from the intersection where the crash happened and saw people rushing to their aid before emergency responders arrived.

She visited the site to lay flowers and told CTV News, "I want the family to know that the community is here for them, whatever they need. It was a horrific incident, a parent's worst nightmare, I just feel for them. My heart is breaking for them.”

Many online posts are thanking the staff of St. Thomas Tire Service who immediately rushed out to help those who were injured. They were too shaken up to discuss what happened, but were grateful for the kind words.

"We're dads too. It's not easy to see something like that. We just had to help,” one employee said.

"I'd like to say thank you to them too. There's so many people and I don't even know half of them. I'd like to thank you to all of them for supporting us,” added Chad.

The wake of the tragedy is having an impact on the community at large.

The owner of a Mr. Sub across the street from where the collision occurred got a call from his two employees shortly after the accident occurred. They were supposed to be open until 9 p.m., but due to the emotional weight of the situation, the owner told them to close the store and go home.

Aiden Curtis of St. Thomas, Ont. is seen in this undated image. (Source: Brooklyn Curtis)Nicholas Lemke, 19 years old, has been charged with impaired operation causing death, impaired operation causing bodily harm and operation while Impaired – blood alcohol concentration over 80.

"There are no excuses for this senseless tragedy. Impaired driving related collisions are preventable," said St. Thomas Police Chief, Mark Roskamp.

Lemke made a court appearance on Wednesday morning but has since been released.

"I want him to pay. He's got to pay for what he's done but he's such a young kid himself,” said Chad. “He's my son's [Jordan’s] age."

In the meantime, Chad, Jordan and Brooklyn continue to get support from friends and family, but admit they’re still having a difficult time coming to terms with the tragedy that took Aiden’s life. 

A GoFundMe campaign was launched on Wednesday evening to support the Curtis family with funeral costs and other financial expenses. 

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