Grandparents, grandchild among 4 dead in wrong-way 401 pursuit crash | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Grandparents, grandchild among 4 dead in wrong-way 401 pursuit crash

FILE PHOTO - A Durham Regional Police car is shown at a Bowmanville, Ont. shopping centre parking lot on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2023. Police say a pursuit that began with a call about a robbery in a community northeast of Toronto has ended with a deadly crash.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives

Two grandparents and their infant grandchild were killed on a busy stretch of Highway 401 on Monday night after a van being chased by police east of Toronto crashed while going the wrong way, causing a multi-vehicle collision.

The crash – which also left the person in the suspect van dead – raised questions about the police pursuit that had been triggered by an alleged liquor store robbery, as Ontario's police watchdog began its investigation into what happened.

"It was a really big collision scene, and we're still trying to get to the bottom of how many vehicles, how were they involved, where people were from," Monica Hudon, a spokeswoman for the Special Investigations Unit, said at a news conference Tuesday.

"As part of the investigation, we are going to look into the pursuit. When it started, where it started, what transpired."

The SIU said an off-duty police officer first reported an alleged robbery at an LCBO in Clarington, Ont., around 7:50 p.m. Monday to Durham Region police. Officers then found a cargo van of interest and began pursuing it, the watchdog said.

"Officers followed the cargo van through numerous streets in Durham region as the vehicle drove erratically," Hudon said.

Police continued their pursuit as the van got onto Highway 401 near Stevenson Road and began travelling west in eastbound lanes, she said.

About 20 minutes after the chase began, there was a crash involving six vehicles, Hudon said.

"Three individuals from a civilian vehicle were pronounced deceased at the scene, and in that vehicle were a 60-year-old, a 55-year-old, and an infant," Hudon said, adding that the infant was the grandchild of the adults killed.

She said another person was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

The SIU, which invokes its mandate any time a police officer has been involved in a serious injury, death or sexual assault, said it is investigating the circumstances of the crash and what led to it, including the police pursuit.

Hudon said she did not know if the police pursuit was called off or if officers were asked to pull back before the suspect van got onto the highway.

"It's still really early stages," she said, adding that police policies around pursuits would be part of what's examined. "We will be getting communications, recordings, doing interviews to figure out what happened, when and why."

Hudon did not have further information about the grandparents and infant killed.

Daniel Brown, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, said police in Ontario are required by law to weigh the risks to the public before engaging in a high speed chase.

"Car chases are the staple of action movies, but they're not supposed to happen in real life because of the risks vehicle pursuits pose to the public at large," he said in a phone interview. "And this law requires the police to disengage when the risks outweigh the rewards."

Brown said police also need to consider alternatives available before starting a high speed pursuit of a vehicle and need to consider the suspect and the kind of alleged crime involved.

In the case of what happened Monday night, given that the alleged crime was a liquor store robbery, Brown argued that police "put everyone in harm's way by engaging this particular pursuit on one of Canada's busiest highways."

"They simply either underestimated the risk to the public or failed to consider the risk to the public when they engaged in this high speed chase," he said.

"It's a tragic situation and this is something that could have been entirely prevented. That's frustrating. It's devastating for the families."

In a written statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Durham Region police said the incident “has had a profound impact” on its community and members.

“We understand there are many questions, however there is a legislated process regarding investigations conducted by the SIU that our service must adhere to,” it wrote.

“DRPS is fully cooperating with the SIU and as such are unable to make a public statement on this incident.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the crash "heart wrenching" during an unrelated news conference Tuesday morning.

"My heart goes out to the family and my condolences go out to them," he said.

"When you see everyone from a grandfather to a little baby, the loss of lives because someone decides to rob a liquor store and go on the other side of the highway, it's a tragedy."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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