Festival turns to tragedy as boy, 2, dies after being hit by car in church car park

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A toddler killed by a car when a Burmese cultural festival turned to tragedy had just learnt to say ‘mama’ and ‘papa’.

Thang Khat Sun, 2, was remembered as a lovely child by community members who were rallying around his family. The boy was due to celebrate his third birthday on October 19.

Thang Khat Sun was killed in an accident on Saturday.

Thang and his family arrived to celebrate a Burmese harvest event, known as the Khuado Pawi festival, at NewHope Baptist Church on Springfield Road in Blackburn North about 6.45pm on Saturday.

Thang was hit by a car in the car park and could not be saved despite paramedics’ efforts.

Thang Zuisang, who helped organise the event for the Zomi community, an ethnic group from north-western Myanmar, said the boy’s mother, Nu Nuam, and family, were in shock.

“Thang was just starting to talk and say words like ‘mama’ and ‘papa’,” Zuisang said.

The Zomi community is gathering around Thang Khat Sun’s parents.

“It’s really difficult for them, they can’t digest what happened last night.”

Thang was one of three children. His older sister, 8, was preparing to dance at the festival on Saturday night when the tragedy happened.

“We were in the middle of the events program when it happened,” Zuisang said.

“We tried to finish the event as soon as possible. There was no joy left.”

The family is from Ringwood in Melbourne’s east and had arrived in Australia on humanitarian visas from Myanmar.

“The family really loved their life here in Australia. Thang’s sister was preparing for weeks for the dance,” Zuisang said.

He said the tragedy had affected everyone in the close-knit community.

“The Zomi community are very close. Thang’s family come to most of our community events,” Zuisang said.

Police are yet to determine the circumstances of the crash.Credit: Nine News

Victoria Police said the driver of the car that hit Thang was assisting them, and they were yet to establish the circumstances of the crash.

Zuisang said the driver was a member of the Zomi community.

“He’s really heartbroken, there’s no words to describe what he’s going through as well,” said Zuisang.

Community members plan to visit Thang’s family in the coming days.

Paramedics could not save Thang Khat Sun, 3.

“If someone passes away, in our culture, we all visit the family, and we sit together and provide support,” said Zuisang.

Thang’s family thanked emergency services for their efforts.

“The parents want to thank all the community members and paramedics and police for trying to save their son’s life,” Zuisang said, speaking on their behalf.

Gina Menelaou, who owns a fruit shop opposite the church with her husband, Nick, said she was working when she heard screams just after 6.30pm.

“I didn’t know what was happening, I just heard women screaming, I thought it was a fight or something,” Menelaou said.

“It’s just terrible, I feel so sad for the parents,” she said.

The grocer said the tragedy came a year after a vehicle crashed through their shop. A customer was taken to hospital and others were injured in that accident.

“We are shocked that this has happened again; it makes you feel like what is else is going to happen around here,” said Nick Menelaou.

The NewHope Baptist Church said a private function was being held in the church function room on Saturday evening, but no church members were there.

Reverend Katrina Lambert, associate senior pastor of the church, said the space was regularly hired for private functions and community events.

“No incidents have ever happened here or in the car park,” said Lambert.

“Our hearts go out to the family affected and as a community, we are holding them in our prayers. We will be praying for the family in the Sunday service and all of those affected to acknowledge the tragedy,” she said.

In a separate tragedy on Victoria’s roads a 19-year-old man died after the car he was travelling in lost control and crashed into a tree in Cowes, in Victoria’s south-east, just after 11.30pm on Saturday.

Police said the driver and three other males were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police have urged anyone who witnessed either incidents, has dashcam/CCTV footage or information is contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online.

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