Fam­ily, friends and strangers unite in fi­nal farewell

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS REYNOLDS STAFF RE­PORTER

With tear-swollen eyes, Jen­nifer Neville-Lake kissed her hand and ex­tended it to­ward the hearses bear­ing her three chil­dren and fa­ther away into the night for­ever.

To a fam­ily that has lived a night­mare since learn­ing of the car crash — al­legedly caused by a drunk driver — that would rob them of three flour­ish­ing lives and a fourth ma­ture one, the fu­neral ser­vice in Brampton Sun­day evening brought a mea­sure of clo­sure, if lit­tle com­fort.

“They went to­gether hold­ing hands,” Neville-Lake said, re­call­ing how her two youngest died side by side at the Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren hours af­ter the col­li­sion at an in­ter­sec­tion in Vaughan one week be­fore.

Ear­lier Sun­day, rel­a­tives, friends and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered un­der dimmed lights for a vis­i­ta­tion that brought home the tragic re­al­ity.

The bod­ies of Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harry, 5, and sis­ter Milly, 2, lay in open cas­kets. Blan­kets re­flect­ing the chil­dren’s love of Star Wars, My Lit­tle Pony and Snow White draped the oak as prayer can­dles burned.

“All my ba­bies are dead,” said their mother. “We’re still try­ing to un­der­stand it.”

Daniel’s heart­beat per­sisted un­til nearly an hour and a half af­ter the crash on the af­ter­noon of Sept. 27, his mother said. “He was such a fighter. They all were,” she said.

Be­hind her at the vis­i­ta­tion lay the body of her fa­ther Gary Neville, whom his grand­chil­dren called Papu. Neville-Lake’s mother Ner­iza Neville and grand­mother Josephina Frias are still in hos­pi­tal.

Neville-Lake said burial would likely take place af­ter her mother is re­leased. Frias, in her 90s, is suf­fer­ing from nu­mer­ous bro­ken bones and a brain bleed, Neville-Lake said.

As for Neville-Lake and her hus­band, the pain is unimag­in­able, a fam­ily friend said. They are “stand­ing firm” right now, but when they are alone in their house, and the chil­dren aren’t run­ning around them, that’s when it hurts,” said Edel Lee, who at­tended the vis­i­ta­tion at Brampton Fu­neral Home & Ceme­tery Sun­day.

The chil­dren’s fa­ther Ed­ward Lake greeted close friends and strangers alike at the vis­i­ta­tion, ac­cept­ing end­less hugs and hand­shakes.

Ines Silva, who lives sev­eral blocks from the fu­neral home, came Sun­day morn­ing even though she doesn’t know the fam­ily per­son­ally. “I’ve been to fu­neral homes be­fore, but I’ve never been in a sit­u­a­tion like this one to­day. If some­thing hap­pened to my fam­ily, my grand­kids, I couldn’t . . . it touches me so much,” she said.

Dozens lined up to en­ter the fu­neral home be­fore the doors opened around 9:30 a.m., with scores more ar­riv­ing through­out the day to of­fer sym­pa­thy and pay re­spects.

Many mourn­ers bowed their heads in prayer, mak­ing the sign of the cross as they viewed school photos of Daniel and Harry taken just two days be­fore the fa­tal ac­ci­dent.

Be­side the boys’ cas­kets stood two bi­cy­cles, one still with train­ing wheels. Daniel’s Cub Scouts uni­form hung a few feet from Milly’s flow­ered dress. Toy light sabres and bas­ket­balls sat near a War Amps cer­tifi­cate of achieve­ment for Harry, who had un­der­gone an am­pu­ta­tion of one fin- ger, the re­sult of sev­eral health dif­fi­cul­ties he over­came.

More than 300 peo­ple later at­tended the fu­neral, spilling over into an aux­il­iary room opened to ac­com­mo­date the mourn­ers. Neville-Lake re­mained com­posed as she spoke about her chil­dren’s quirks and joys, her hus­band at her side.

“Daniel and Har­ri­son shared a room, and they got to have this re­ally typ­i­cal brother re­la­tion­ship . . . Harri- son would come home, throw (Daniel’s) home­work in the garbage and then hide un­der the ta­ble. He liked es­pe­cially to squish ( jelly beans) into Daniel’s ear,” she said with a laugh.

The fu­neral ser­vice in­cluded pas­sages from Ec­cle­si­astes and The Lit­tle Prince. It cul­mi­nated in a pro­ces­sional set to “Some­where Over the Rain­bow” — the song Jen­nifer and Ed­ward sang be­fore kiss­ing Harry and Milly good­bye in the early morn­ing of Sept. 28.

Adri­ano Ruchetta, Daniel’s god­fa­ther, said: “Don’t judge a book by its length; judge it by its rich­ness . . . Some­times those (songs) un­fin­ished are the most spir­ited.”

Marco Muzzo, 29, is fac­ing18 charges, in­clud­ing four counts of im­paired driv­ing caus­ing death. The Muzzo fam­ily owns the con­struc­tion com­pany Marel Con­trac­tors and con­do­minium builder Pem­ber­ton Group and is worth nearly $1.8 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian Busi­ness mag­a­zine.

York Re­gional Po­lice say the col­li­sion oc­curred at Kirby Rd. and Ki­pling Ave., a cross­roads with a stop sign, sur­rounded by farm­ers’ fields. Around 4:10 p.m. on Sept. 27, Muzzo’s SUV is al­leged to have shot into the in­ter­sec­tion, slammed into the side of the Neville-Lakes’ mini­van and then struck a third ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to Crown lawyer Brian McCal­lion.

FAM­ILY PHOTO

A fu­neral was held Sun­day for the NevilleLake chil­dren — from left, Daniel, Milly, and Harry — and their grand­fa­ther, Gary Neville, who were killed when their van was struck by an al­leged drunk driver.

CHRIS REYNOLDS/TORONTO STAR

Jen­nifer Neville-Lake em­braces her hus­band, Ed­ward Lake, as hearses bear­ing her chil­dren and fa­ther pull away.

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