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Funeral to be held for father, daughter who died in QEW crash


Antonette Wijeratne

RENE JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR Antonette Wijeratne is visited by her son, Brian, in the Sunnybrook hospital room where she’s recovering from a horrific head-on crash on a QEW exit ramp on Aug. 5 that killed her husband and daughter.

Antonette Wijeratne and her husband came to Canada with two young children and great hopes.

They would be safe from the war that wracked their native Sri Lanka. They would live good lives, in a nice house. Their children would get a good education.

“There were a lot of dreams we had,” said Antonette. “My husband had planned out everything. He said, ‘Don’t worry, we have a long-term plan.’”

Instead, on Saturday, Antonette will bury her husband and daughter.

Jayantha and Eleesha Wijeratne died on Aug. 5 in a crash that nearly killed Antonette, too. A suspected drunk driver going the wrong way on an exit ramp hit them head-on as they left the QEW for Highway 427.

That driver, a 19-year-old man, is still in hospital. Police said he will be charged once he is released.

Antonette will be in Sunnybrook hospital for weeks more, with broken bones — arm, leg and ribs — and an immobile hip. She will be taken to the funeral in a wheelchair guided by the only other surviving member of her immediate family, son Brian, 19.

The family came to Toronto, where much of Jayantha’s family already lived, in 2000.

They got jobs, bought a house in North York and raised their family. They often went on road trips. In 2010, they spent two weeks touring Quebec and the Maritimes. Jayantha was a good driver, very careful, said Antonette. He always drove.

That first week of August, they were returning from a vacation to Florida. They had so much fun there, Antonette said. She took a picture near the end of the holiday of her husband and daughter coming out of the water at the beach, jumping in the air, laughing. The two of them were so similar — looked the same, talked the same. Always laughing, both of them.

Aug. 4 was Antonette’s birthday. Eleesha, 16, gave her a souvenir she’d bought in Florida, a cluster of seashells with a little plate that reads, “I love you mom.”

She was set to go to university next year to study engineering, like Brian, who is about to start his second year at Ryerson. The family was going to buy a new, better house, too.

“We did a pretty good job,” said Antonette. “We didn’t have a lot of money but we were OK. We were a very happy family.”

They were almost home when all that changed.

Antonette was in the front beside her husband, Eleesha in the back. They were all wearing seatbelts.

“I was a little bit sleepy maybe,” said Antonette. “All of a sudden, I remember two big lights very close, directly in my eyes.”

Then there was the crash. That part she doesn’t remember.

“Then I was conscious. I woke up and I was stuck in somewhere. I realized something happened to us. I couldn’t move.”

She looked to the left, where Jayantha should be, and saw only darkness.

She looked behind, to her daughter.

“My little girl, I saw her face leaning toward me, her hair toward me. She didn’t look in pain. She looked so peaceful, like she was sleeping.”

Antonette lost consciousness again. Jayantha and 16-year-old Eleesha were pronounced dead there, on the highway.

Police went to their house and woke Brian, who had stayed home from the trip to study. The officers told him his father and sister were dead. They told him to get in the car, come to the hospital, to his mother.

It was like a dream, Brian said later that night. He didn’t feel like it was happening, not to him.

Medical workers surrounded Antonette, who asked over and over what had happened to her husband and daughter. Outside, relatives gathered, hysterical.

Doctors kept saying Brian had to tell his mother, but he couldn’t do it. For four hours, he couldn’t do it. Then, at 11 a.m., he told her.

Antonette used to call her husband every day after work to ask when he’d be home. She missed him when he was working later than she was.

“My husband, he loved me so much. I couldn’t live without him,” she said. “My whole world was my husband and my two kids. I didn’t have anything else in my life.”

A funeral will be held for Jayantha (Neil) and Eleesha Wijeratne at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Jude Parish, 3251 Weston Rd., Toronto.

thestar.com – News

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