Any number of possibilities can cause a ‘T-bone’ collision on a clear dry day in the mid-afternoon. Usually, the facts line up with the statistics: in 2015, the most recent US statistics indicate that drunk driving crashes still caused roughly one-third of all driving-related fatalities, which also reflect, if not to the low side, the statistics in Canada.
On September 27, 2015, at an intersection north of Kleinburg, Ontario—about 15 minutes north of Toronto—when a 29-year-old grandson of a Canadian real estate billionaire blew through the stop sign smashing his Jeep SUV into the side of a Dodge Caravan entering the intersection carrying three children, ages two, five and nine, and their grandfather aged 65, his wife and a great-grandmother.
The driver of the Jeep reportedly had a blood-alcohol level about three times the legal driving limit. According to news reports, all of the occupants of the Dodge Caravan were killed except for the grandmother and the great-grandmother.
Regarding the children, media reports included this detail: “Harry (five) and Milly (two) died in hospital, Harry holding his sister’s hand, after doctors placed them together, knowing nothing could save them.” Daniel, their older brother had died three hours before them.
The investigation revealed that the Jeep driver, having braked for almost four seconds, struck at 85 km/h—hence that his speed had exceeded the 80 km/h limit. Having pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death, four counts of driving over the legal limit, four counts of dangerous driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, two counts of driving above the legal limit causing bodily harm, and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, on February 24th, in court in Newmarket, Ontario, the Jeep driver was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 29, 2016.
The Crown is asking for a 10 to 12-year sentence, his lawyer for eight years. In this proceeding, the Jeep driver, unsworn but from the witness stand, apologized to the parents and begged for their mercy. He said, “I am tortured by the grief I’ve caused. …I will spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct, and devoting myself to educating the public of the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving.”
The deceased children’s parents reportedly had left the courtroom as the Jeep driver took the stand, however, returning only when he was finished speaking. The mother reportedly said, “[He] killed all my babies…I knew I did not want to hear anything he had to say. …Forgiveness is … not like a piece of clothing you can put on. It’s a process.”
Employed in the family business and soon to marry, the Jeep driver was returning from his own bachelor party in Miami where he had been drinking into the early morning and on the flight home in a private jet. Media reports note that character references portraying him as “down-to-earth, humble and caring” are nevertheless “at odds with his long record of driving offences, including speeding and texting while driving.”
Not surprisingly, this horrific tragedy has been widely reported outside Canada; expect the media attention to continue on the sentencing and whatever follows from this.