Tragedy stuck a Sri Lankan family who migrated to Canada in 2000. The Wijeratne family is mourning the death of 49 year old Neil Wijeratne and his 16 year-old daughter Eleesha in a head-on crash on the QEW last weekend. Early Sunday morning, a teen was driving the wrong way on the ramp from the QEW to the northbound Highway 427 when his SUV collided head-on with the victims’ minivan. Jayantha Neil Wijeratne and his daughter Eleesha Nimani were killed on impact. Wijeratne’s wife Antonette, who celebrated her 50th birthday on Saturday, underwent surgery and remains in critical condition at Sunnybrook hospital. The family had been on its way home after a week-long holiday in Florida with other relatives. They had dropped off Wijeratne’s brother, Rohana, and his wife and were headed back to their North York home.
“This is my youngest brother,” Rohana told Citynews. “I lost him.”
The Wijeratnes came to Canada from Sri Lanka 12 years ago and also have a 19-year-old son, Brian.
“They came here looking for a better life for their kids just like any immigrant — and to lose their daughter that way,” said Wijeratne’s nephew Lakshan.
“She was gifted in so many ways.”
After the crash, police arrested the 19-year-old driver and say impaired driving charges are pending. He is in St. Michael’s Hospital with serious injuries, but is expected to survive.
“Our family forgives you for what you did,” Lakshan said in a message to the driver. “But just know that it was wrong and that your careless actions caused this to our family. It's something that shouldn't have happened.
Brian Wijeratne woke Sunday morning to loud pounding on the door. He went downstairs and opened it. Two OPP officers were standing there. They told him there had been an accident. They told him that his father and younger sister were dead. Jayantha, 49, and Eleesha, 16, were killed in a head-on crash with an alleged drunk driver who was going the wrong way on the eastbound QEW ramp onto Hwy. 427 north around 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning. Antonette, Wijeratne’s mother, was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. The 19-year-old driver of the SUV that plowed into their minivan was also taken to hospital with serious injuries. Police said he will be charged with impaired driving. The family was returning from a 5-day vacation in Florida. They’d just dropped off an aunt and uncle in Mississauga and were nearly back at their North York home.
Sgt. Dave Woodford said police had received calls about the vehicle on the wrong side of the road and were responding. But they were too late. Wijeratne, 19, had to tell his mother, in critical condition at Sunnybrook, that her daughter and husband were dead.
“It just destroyed her,” said Wijeratne.
His parents brought their young children to Canada from Sri Lanka on Jan. 29, 2000, escaping civil war and looking for better opportunities. Jayantha worked as a maintenance manager at hotels after arriving in Canada. He encouraged his children to study hard, to build a future.
Wijeratne is studying engineering at Ryerson University, and Eleesha was to start Grade 12 at Bishop Allen Academy in the fall. She planned to become a chemical engineer. Her dream schools were McMaster or Waterloo.
She was a fun-loving and always joking — a mirror of her father, said Wijeratne.
And they are gone, because of an alleged drunk driver, he said.
“I don’t want to believe it, it just seems like a dream. It’s not real,” said Wijeratne.
Brian Wijeratne nearly lost his entire family Sunday when an alleged drunk driver smashed into the van carrying his parents and sister. His father and sister are dead. His mom is in hospital with serious injuries. OPP investigators alleged a 19-year-old driver was traveling the wrong way on the southbound on Hwy. 427 around 2:30 a.m. As Wijeratne’s father exited the eastbound QEW for Hwy. 427, a GMC Envoy smashed head-on into Wijeratne’s rental Dodge Caravan. The crash killed Jayantha Neil Wijeratne, 49, his 16-year-old daughter Eleesha, and left his wife Antonette, 50, in critical condition. The driver of the other car non life-threatening injuries. Brian Wijeratne, 19, who wasn’t in the van, paced the halls of Sunnybrook hospital Sunday awaiting news of his mother’s condition — the only family he has left.