The family of a two-year-old boy killed by a car outside a religious festival in east Melbourne have remembered their “quiet” and “clever” child.
Thang Khat Siam Hatzaw was weeks away from his third birthday when he was struck by a vehicle in a carpark just before 7pm on Saturday.
Paramedics rushed to treat Khat and another child who sustained minor injuries in the crash, but Khat was declared dead at the scene.
His mother Cing Khaw Nuam told Nine News that her son loved Thomas the Tank Engine and had a special bond with his father, Pau Khan Thang.
“It is so difficult to bear this grief but we are proud of him and ourselves,” Ms Nuam said. “We did everything we could for him.”
Khat and his family belong to the Zomi ethnic group and had emigrated to Australia from the mountain towns of northwest Myanmar (Burma).
The family had just arrived at the New Hope Baptist Church in Blackburn North for the Khuado Pawi culture festival when tragedy unfolded.
Ms Nuam told the Herald Sun that she was picking up spilt potato chips from the footwell of her car when she lost sight of the two-year-old.
“I saw a big crowd and when I get there someone is holding my son,” Ms Cing told the Herald Sun.
“(I) realised my boy’s been hit by a car. He was still breathing, but no more sound.”
In the aftermath of the crash, Ms Nuam said their youngest child, 18 months old, struggled to understand what had happened.
Their nine-year-old and eldest daughter, who Ms Nuam said “prayed for a brother”, continued to ask where her brother had gone.
Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives have since launched an investigation into the horror collision.
The driver of the vehicle, a 49-year-old Mooroolbark man, stopped to give assistance and was arrested by police at the scene.
In a statement, police said the man was later released from custody pending further inquiries by investigators.
The death also sent shockwaves through the tight-knit Zomi community of Melbourne, many of whom fled repression in Myanmar.
The Zomi, also known as the Chin, had faced repeated campaigns of violence by the Burmese military, including after the 2021 military coup.
Jacob Haino, who participated in the festival, wrote on Facebook: “What a worst day to remember … Thang Khat Siam, fly high till our God.”