3-month-old, grandparents visiting from India killed in 401 crash: SIU

Six vehicles were involved in a crash on Highway 401 that killed an infant boy and his two grandparents on Monday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)
Six vehicles were involved in a crash on Highway 401 that killed an infant boy and his two grandparents on Monday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has released more information about Monday's crash that killed four people, including a three-month-old boy, after police chased a suspect through oncoming traffic on Highway 401 east of Toronto.

Two grandparents, a 60-year-old man and 55-year-old woman, were killed in the collision, said the SIU, the organization that examines deaths involving police in Ontario. Both grandparents were visiting Canada from India, the agency said in a news release.

The infant's parents, a 33-year-old father and 27-year-old mother, were also injured in the crash, the SIU said, adding that they are residents of Ajax, Ont. The parents were in the same car as the grandparents and the baby, according to the news release.

The collision was the result of a police chase that began with an alleged liquor store robbery in Bowmanville, Ont., in the regional municipality of Clarington. Police pursued the suspect as he drove the wrong way on Highway 401 in Whitby, about 50 kilometres east of Toronto.

That chase ended in a fatal collision that involved at least six vehicles, according to the SIU. The robbery suspect was also killed.

On Thursday, the SIU said the suspect was a 21-year-old man. A 38-year-old man who was also in the van remains in hospital with serious injuries, according to the SIU.

There are two officers being investigated and four who have been designated as witness officers, the SIU said. The witness officers will be interviewed and have their notes reviewed, according to Howard Morton, a former SIU director.

The SIU has assigned seven investigators, one forensic investigator and one collision reconstructionist to the case.

Anyone with information, videos or photos is being asked to contact the investigators.

Multiple offences to be considered: ex-SIU director

Morton said the SIU will be looking at a number of driving offences that could be laid as a result of the investigation.

"But I think they'll also be looking at offences of criminal negligence causing death, which is one of the more relatively serious offences set out in our Criminal Code," he said in an interview with CBC News Wednesday.

Morton said investigators will also look to speak to people who worked on radio dispatch and were in charge during the pursuit.

He said the investigation won't be over quickly.

"I think you're looking at a real long timeframe here," he said.

'What's going on?'

Milica Maljkovic Birkett didn't have time to think, on Monday evening. She just reacted.

She was driving her regular commute on the 401, when she was suddenly face-to-face with the suspect van barrelling toward her car.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, like what just happened? What's going on?'" Maljkovic Birkett told CBC Toronto Thursday.

In a dashcam video she recorded, the van can be seen weaving through oncoming traffic and nearly missing vehicles, as police cruisers follow behind. She said the brake lights of cars in front of her were the only visual warning she had that a van was barrelling toward her at a high rate of speed.

Patrick Morrell/CBC
Patrick Morrell/CBC

She said it wasn't until after the van passed her that she saw police lights flashing on her side of the highway.

Maljkovic Birkett said the experience has taken time to process.

"It's so scary," she said. "For whatever reason, somehow my life was spared. But [four] others were taken and that was just really heavy."

'Someone is going to get hurt'

In her video, the van drives toward her in a centre lane, drifting toward the lane she's driving and whipping past her as she moves toward the lane furthest left. Seconds later, a police cruiser drives through oncoming traffic in pursuit, later followed by four others.

A police radio recording, which captures conversations between officers and a dispatcher on an Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division communication channel, included a caution from an officer that someone was going to get hurt during the chase.

The audio, which comes from the website Broadcastify, is a window into the initial information investigators were working with as Durham police officers pursued the suspect.

WATCH | Experts question police decision to pursue: 

"Comms centre if we could pass on, just want to make sure the Durham sergeant's aware that they're driving [in] the opposite direction," an officer said.

"Someone is going to get hurt."

Maljkovic Birkett said while driving through the chase she wondered why so many police cars were involved.

"I'm beyond furious, like so furious," she said. "I'm not anti-police, I never was, but I really question some of their tactics and ways of thinking."

Durham police declined to speak about the incident Thursday, citing the SIU's investigation.