Wijeratne family tragedy: Drunk driver handed five year sentence

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Antonnette, Eleesha and Jayantha.

Antonnette, Eleesha and Jayantha.

A jail sentence was handed out today more than three years after a drunk driver drove the wrong way on a highway and crashed into a family’s car killing 49 year-old Jayanatha Neil Wijeratne and his 16-year-old daughter Eleesha in Toronto.

“I think that’s absolutely ridiculous and it’s infuriating” said Brian Wijeratne, who lost his father and sister in the crash, as he spoke to reporters following the verdict, according to the CBC.

He thanked both the Crown and the judge in the case, but said the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. “I ask all Canadians, do you honestly believe this is real justice received for the deaths of two people and injury of another? Because I don’t,” the CBC report added

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Sabastian Prosa, who was 19 at the time of the 2012 collision, was sentenced today. He is also banned from driving for eight years. Prosa was found guilty of 12 charges, including impaired driving causing death, in June.

Wreckage of the GMC Envoy (left) and Wijeratne family’s rental Dodge Caravan (right). (Picture by Victor Biro)

Wreckage of the GMC Envoy (left) and Wijeratne family’s rental Dodge Caravan (right). (Picture by Victor Biro)

Report from September 2012

Father and daughter killed in head-on Toronto highway crash; Driver of other vehicle who was allegedly drunk drove wrong way

 16-year-old gifted student Eleesha and father Jayantha, an engineer, die minutes away from home after 2400km road trip from Florida

Antonnette Wijieratne with her son Brian at Sunnybrook hospital recovering from life-threatening injuries. (Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene)

Antonnette Wijieratne with her son Brian at Sunnybrook hospital recovering from life-threatening injuries. (Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene)

By Mahesh Abeyewardene

The Wijieratne family was minutes away from reaching their Toronto home after a long 2,400-km road-trip from Florida when a GMC Envoy driving the wrong way on Highway 427 slammed head-on with their rented Dodge Caravan at 2:45AM on August 6.

Police believe the 19-year-old driver of the SUV was drunk. Moments earlier panicked motorists on the highway called police to report a vehicle driving the wrong way. Jayantha Neil Wijieratne was driving the Caravan, with his wife Antonette beside him on the passenger side and their 16 year-old daughter

Eleesha in the back seat. As Jayantha entered Highway 427 the GMC SUV crashed head-on with their vehicle. The extraction process of injured passengers was long as fire fighters had to cut through the mangled wreckage.

HAPPY FAMILY: Brian and Eleesha with their parents Antonnette and Jayantha who migrated from Sri Lanka in 2000.

HAPPY FAMILY: Brian and Eleesha with their parents Antonnette and Jayantha who migrated from Sri Lanka in 2000“I woke up and heard people saying she is alive, she is alive,” Antonette told the Sri Lanka Reporter from her hospital bed at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, recalling the moments when emergency workers reached the van.

“I looked towards my husband and I couldn’t see anything. It was black. I looked at the backseat to see my daughter; she was not pale and her hair was long and beautiful as ever.”

Forty-nine year-old Jayantha and his daughter were pronounced dead, while Antonnette suffered life-threatening injuries.

The man inside GMC was screaming as rescue workers pulled him out of his vehicle, according to a source near the scene.

Nineteen-year-old Brian Wijeratne was visited by police the next day and told his father and sister were killed and his mother was in intensive care. Brian had stayed behind in Toronto to study for exams at Ryerson University.

 DREAM VACATION

The one-week road trip to Florida celebrated Antonnette’s 50th birthday. The family along with two other relatives from Mississauga visited Miami and Orlando. Jayantha had described his visit to the Kennedy Space Centre as “a dream come true” as he wanted to visit it from his childhood days in Sri Lanka. He studied electronic engineering at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka and worked at Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and Fentons. After migrating to Canada in 2000, he was employed as maintenance manager of Courtyard Marriott in Brampton.

Wijeratne family’s mangled rental Dodge Caravan. (Picture by Victor Biro)

Wijeratne family’s mangled rental Dodge Caravan. (Picture by Victor Biro)

For over two decades Antonnette made a cup of tea each morning and served it at her husband’s bedside. On June 15 this year Jayantha got a chance to thank his wife. “This cup of tea every morning has been my strength for 22 years,” he said.

Jayantha was inspirational to both his children and his wife who describes him as the hero of the family. His son Brian took-up engineering at Ryerson following in his father’s footsteps. Sixteen year-old Eleesha was a science wiz and due to enter grade 12 in September. She was planning to study chemical engineering and being a gifted student most universities would have accepted her.

She won gold at a regional science competition in grade 10 followed by a good placing at the National Science Fair and recently she was invited to Canada’s Wonderland to showcase her roller coaster project with other top students.

Antonnette, an accountant by profession, worked at the Rupavahini Corporation in Sri Lanka and is the daughter of well-known late comedian Annesley Dias.

She says her husband and daughter were social butterflies in the family, always joking and laughing in a “happy family.” She spoke to The Sri Lanka Reporter from her hospital room, displaying courage on the face of her losses and severe injuries which included a hand broken in two places, broken ribs, a cut liver and a broken pelvis.

 

DAUGHTER’S GIFT: Eleesha gave this gift to her mother on the ride back home. The ornament made with Florida sea shells survived the crash and was found under a seat.

DAUGHTER’S GIFT: Eleesha gave this gift to her mother on the ride back home. The ornament made with Florida sea shells survived the crash and was found under a seat.

GIFT TO “AMMA” SURVIVES CRASH

SWEET GIRL: Eleesha, 16, was a gifted student and hoped to study chemical engineering.

SWEET GIRL: Eleesha, 16, was a gifted student and hoped to study chemical engineering.

Her final memories with her husband and daughter were sweet as she recalled special birthday gifts on the drive back home. “When we walked into duty free my husband said pick anything you want today is your day,” she said.

“Eleesha gave me a gift in the car, an ornament made with sea shells, saying ‘Amma, I got this for you.’”

The ornament from Florida, printed with the words “I Love You Mom” was unscathed in the horrific crash and it was found under a seat by relatives who went to identify the car at the police station. The gift was a true sentiment of affection from a loving daughter in the prime of her of life. On the long ride back home Eleesha constantly poked her Mother from the back seat and said, “Amma, I love you”.

Police are soon expected to lay charges against the driver of the GMC Envoy who drove the wrong way.