Child hit by tree during windstorm making good progress

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The West Coast’s first major wind event of the season caused traumatic injury to a young island girl, as well as numerous power outages and tree damage on Salt Spring.

Six-year-old Priya Pilheden was hit by a falling tree during the Oct. 13 windstorm but was making good progress at BC Children’s Hospital last week.

Salt Spring Fire Rescue reported their crews assisted BC Ambulance with an extrication and patient care as one of nine calls related to the storm they attended between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. last Tuesday.

Robyn Oakes, a friend of the Pilheden family who organized a GoFundMe donation campaign, explained on the campaign page that Priya suffered a broken leg, a fractured skull and a brain injury when a tree fell on her in the woods. Her parents Jona and Vidya Pilheden and baby brother Kailash were staying in Vancouver while the young girl received ongoing treatment and testing.

“The doctors at Children’s Hospital are feeling very confident Priya will recover from her injuries,” Oakes said Friday, after receiving a report from Vidya over the phone.

“She has such a strong spirit — she is, as the first responders called her, ‘one tough cookie.’ They are hoping at some point soon they will be able to finish Priya’s recovery at home, and their lives will be able to regain normalcy once again.”

The GoFundMe campaign reached over $20,000 in donations in the first 24 hours. Community members reacted with disbelief and compassion for the young family, who already face health challenges with their infant son. A donation jar has also been placed at Barb’s Bakery and Bistro.

“This little girl is the same age as my little boys and lives on our street,” wrote islander Shane Hubenig. “Accidents like this can happen to anyone; when they do, we need to rally and help, and be present. That’s what true communities do. May Priya receive all the healing energy we can muster, and the family receive the material needs we can help with.”

“Jona and Vidya are so overwhelmingly grateful for all the love and support from our community,” Oakes said in response to the many supportive comments. “When they read all your words of encouragement, and hear your sweet messages, they are moved beyond words.”

The fundraiser can be found at gofundme.com under “Team Priya emergency medical fund.”

Eight of the calls Salt Spring Fire Rescue attended last Tuesday involved trees or branches down on hydro lines or across the road. Trees blocked the 600 block of Isabella Point Road and Broadwell Road near Duck Creek, and caused other damage throughout the island.

“As emergency calls come in during these events we set up area command, at Hall #1 downtown, and prioritize them based on the information we receive from our 911 dispatchers,” Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Holmes explained in an email. “Most of the calls involve a single apparatus responding to ensure no fire or life safety issues are present and then updating BC Hydro, [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure contractors], or other emergency agencies. Our crews try and flag the affected area to let the public know we’ve investigated the situation if we have to clear for another call.”

Ferry service at Vesuvius was temporarily suspended at mid-day on Oct. 13 because of a power outage at the terminal. BC Hydro reported more than 100,000 customers had lost power in the Lower Mainland, on the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island, with most customers restored as of Wednesday morning.

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