Toronto

Nearly 4 years to the day after the Neville-Lake tragedy, a dad tries to pick up his children drunk

Almost four years to the day after Jennifer Neville-Lake's three children and father were killed by a drunk driver, police in York Region say they arrested a father who tried to pick up his children from school while intoxicated.

'I don't believe that what happened to my family was so that the universe could learn some valuable lessons'

In an effort to dissuade drivers from getting behind the wheel, police opted to release a recording of the man under arrest in the back of their cruiser. (York Regional Police)

Almost four years to the day that Jennifer Neville-Lake's three children and father were killed by a drunk driver, police in York Region say they arrested a father who tried to pick up his children from school while intoxicated.

On Sept. 27, 2015, nine-year-old Daniel, five-year-old Harrison, two-year-old Milly and their grandfather Gary Neville, 65, had their lives cut short when the minivan they were in was hit by a speeding SUV that blew through a stop sign on a rural road in Vaughan, Ont. 

The driver, Marco Muzzo, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2016 after pleading guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

"I still can't believe I have no children to tell stories to now," Neville-Lake said in an emotional Facebook post Thursday. "No little voices to sing with, no small hands to hold, no one to look around and experience the joys of life with anymore."

Friday marks the anniversary of the impaired-driving crash that killed Harry, Milly and Daniel, as well as their 65-year-old grandfather, and York Regional police released this image as part of their campaign against impaired driving. (York Regional Police)

'I am truly at a loss': chief

But despite that tragedy capturing national attention and the deaths and injuries that have followed in the years since, police say the problem of impaired driving appears to be on the rise in York Region, with approximately 15 to 30 arrests made each week.

"I am truly at a loss to how drivers continue to make the stupid and dangerous decision to drive while impaired, either by alcohol or drugs," said Chief Eric Joliffe in a news release. 

This past Wednesday, police say they received a 911 call from a school in Vaughan about a 38-year-old man who attempted to pick up his children. Staff at the school didn't allow the children to get into the vehicle because the man appeared to be drunk.

He drove away before police found him and his vehicle a short time later at his home, and was arrested for impaired driving, blowing twice the legal blood alcohol limit.

In an effort to dissuade impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, police opted to release a recording of the man under arrest in the back of the police vehicle.

"My two-year-old just saw me going away with a cruiser," the man says in the video.

Moments later, his voice breaking, he adds, "I don't care if I gotta stay in there for three days, can you please just take care of my family?"

"The fact that someone was willing to risk the lives of their children and everybody else on our road is just completely shocking," Const. Andy Pattenden told CBC News.

Drunk driving on the rise in region

"You would think with all the publicity and all the talk and all the education about the dangers of impaired driving and the fact that people have seen this tragedy unfold on television everywhere, that the numbers would go down." 

Since the Neville-Lake crash in 2015, the number of impaired-related criminal charges has risen each year. Police say there were 1,636 in 2016, 1,649 in 2017 and 1,654 in 2018. In 2019 so far, there have already been 1,295 cases.

It's a problem that's doubly painful for Neville-Lake, given the timing of this most recent arrest, said Pattenden. 

"Her wish is that everyone would stop driving impaired and that nobody would have to suffer the way she has suffered ... So the anniversary is very difficult for everybody that's been involved," he said.

"No, I don't believe that what happened to my family was so that the universe could learn some valuable lessons," Neville-Lake wrote in her post.

"No, I don't believe that my children were the sacrifice so that you would stop drinking or doing drugs. No, I don't believe that it is only up to me to make the world safer for our children."