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Tragic Wrong-Way Hwy 401 Crash Claims Lives of Infant Son and Grandparents, Leaves Family in ‘Profound Grief’

The father who survived a multi-vehicle crash in Whitby, Ontario, after a wrong-way police pursuit on Highway 401 said he and his wife are suffering “profound grief” following the deaths of his parents and infant son.

Manivannan Srinivasapillai, 60, Mahalakshmi Ananthakrishnan, 55, and three-month-old Aditya Vivaan were killed last week after the U-Haul van driven by a man accused of robbing an LCBO was involved in a multi-vehicle collision on the 401.

In a statement released on behalf of the family by the Special Investigations Unit, Gokulnath Manivannan, 33, wrote that he and his wife, Ashwitha Jawahar, 27, lost “three of the most precious people” in their lives.

“We are at a complete loss of words to describe the agony and vacuum in our hearts knowing we can never hold our child Aditya Vivaan, who gave us so many precious memories in such a short time, in our hands again,” the statement reads.

“His small toys and clothes remain spread around our home, and we have no courage in us to even enter our home which is filled with our only son’s memories.”

Mr. Manivannan’s father, Manivannan Srinivasapillai, and mother, Mahalakshmi Ananthakrishnan, had arrived from Chennai, India, just two days prior to the crash to meet their new grandson. He said his mother had been “eagerly anticipating every moment with her son and grandson, planning to make their stay all about her grandchild.”

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While Mr. Manivannan and his wife, who reside in Ajax, recover from their own injuries sustained in the crash, they must also cope with their overwhelming loss, he said.

“While we begin the arduous journey of planning farewells for our loved ones, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the community who hold our family in their thoughts,” Mr. Manivannan wrote. “Amidst these challenging circumstances, we kindly ask for the space to heal in private.”

The funeral for the couple’s infant son will take place May 8 in Markham.

Crash Investigation

The province’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the deadly April 29 collision that resulted after several Durham police vehicles chased a U-Haul van the wrong way on the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 in Whitby. At least six vehicles, including a semi-trailer, were involved in the fiery crash.

The van, driven by the man who allegedly robbed an LCBO in Clarington, crashed into the family’s Nissan Sentra just after 8 p.m., killing Mr. Manivannan’s infant son and parents. The 21-year-old male driver of the van was also killed, SIU said in a press release.

His 38-year-old male passenger as well as Mr. Manivannan and his wife were all transported to hospital for treatment. Mrs. Jawahar and the van’s passenger both sustained serious injuries, SIU said.

Videos posted on social media of the pursuit show the chase headed along the highway in the wrong direction, causing many to debate whether the pursuit should have been called off.

SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said that will be looked at during the investigation.

“Every situation is different and as part of the SIU’s investigation, we are going to look into the pursuit. When it started, where it started, what transpired, what made up the pursuit, and take a look at policies and things like that,” she said.

Durham Regional Police Service posted a statement on its website.

“This incident has had a profound impact on our community and our members,” the statement reads. “We understand there are many questions, however there is a legislated process regarding investigations conducted by the SIU that our service must adhere to. DRPS is fully cooperating with the SIU and as such are unable to make a public statement on this incident.”

“At this time our thoughts are with those impacted by this tragedy.”

Five investigators, as well as a forensic investigator and a collision deconstructionist, have been assigned to the case by the SIU.

A police report obtained by the Toronto Star showed Durham Regional Police officers were told to stop their chase of the van, but opted to continue. The crash occurred approximately three minutes after the senior officer had tried to call off the chase, according to the report.

Doug Lett contributed to this report.

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