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Father in agony following wrong-way crash that killed his son and parents

Written by on May 5, 2024

TORONTO — The father of a three-month-old boy who died alongside his grandparents in a wrong-way highway crash last week says his grief is agonizing.

Gokulnath Manivannan says the pain of losing his son Aditya Vivaan and his parents is far worse than the physical injuries he suffered in the crash with a van that was being chased by police on Highway 401 east of Toronto.

In a statement provided by Ontario’s police watchdog, Manivannan says his parents, Manivannan Srinivasapillai and Mahalakshmi Ananthakrishnan, had arrived in Canada from India to visit their grandson just two days before the collision.

Manivannan, who lives in Ajax, Ont., says his 60-year-old father had just retired and was looking forward to what he called his “year of grandparents fun.”

He says his 55-year-old mother had been eagerly looking forward to the visit, which she planned to make all about her new grandchild. 

Manivannan says he and his wife have not yet had the heart to re-enter their family home since the crash, since it’s filled with toys and other heart-wrenching reminders of their infant son.

“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,” read the statement provided by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit. “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.”

The crash has raised questions about the police decision to pursue a suspect van in an alleged liquor store robbery into oncoming traffic on one of Canada’s busiest highways. The SIU previously said Durham Region police were chasing a cargo van that had been identified as a vehicle of interest in an alleged liquor store robbery in Clarington, Ont., with the pursuit shifting to Highway 401.

The driver of the van, who was also killed in the crash, was identified as a 21-year-old man, while a 38-year-old male passenger suffered serious injuries.

Manivannan said his wife, Ashwitha Jawahar, is also suffering, dealing with repeated flashbacks to the crash while recovering from surgery. 

“The aftermath has left an indelible mark on our lives, with profound grief. 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,” he wrote in the statement.

“Amidst these challenging circumstances, we kindly ask for the space to heal in private.”

The statement said Manivannan’s parents will be cremated Monday at Forest Lawn Crematorium, while the visitation for Aditya will be held Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chapel Ridge Funeral Home in Markham, Ont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2024.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press