Nirusha Mahendram says 2020 has been a traumatic year.
On Jan. 1, she turned 30 years old and was hoping to celebrate it with her father. Instead, just hours before midnight, she learned her father, 68-year-old Mahendram Sellathurai had been killed by an impaired driver.
Mahendram said she was waiting at home in Stouffvile for her father who had called around 5:30 p.m. saying he would be home in about an hour with dinner. When he didn’t show up, she said she got a little worried so called him back but it went straight to voice mail.
Read more: Man charged with impaired driving after September crash that killed 2 passengers
She tried not to panic and said about an hour after that, police officers arrived at her home. They told her, her father had been killed in a car crash near Ninth Line and Elgin Mills road in Markham. “I asked, ‘How did it happen?’ and they were like, ‘It was a drunk driver.’ I was like ‘Why?'”
Just four months earlier, when the family was on vacation in Europe, Mahendram’s mother died suddenly of a heart attack. She said her whole world was turned upside down and learning about her father’s death sent her into shock.
“The first picture that came into my mind was me in a street with nobody there but me and I couldn’t get over that feeling for a very long time,” she explained.
In September, 40-year-old Stanley Choy, the driver who caused the crash that killed Sellathurai pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Choy was travelling roughly 200 km/hour in a 70 km/hour zone when he rear-ended Sellathurai’s vehicle. He had a blood alcohol concentration of 220 mg per 100 ml, nearly three times the legal limit.
Choy was sentenced to seven years in prison. Mahendram said she is satisfied with the sentence, what she believes is one of the stiffest sentences handed out for someone convicted of a crime like this.
“I want to blame him. You did this to me but another part of me is just like, you made your mistakes and you’re paying for it,” she explained.
Read more: Man charged with impaired driving in Markham New Year’s Eve crash that left 1 dead
Mahendram has now decided to become an advocate against impaired driving and took part in York Regional Police’s (YRP) festive RIDE launch which happened not far from the spot where her father was killed.
“If they had taught me anything, it’s to be strong and to carry on and to find a way to keep their memory alive and I’m going to continue to do that in any way I can,” she said holding back tears.
York police said that impaired driving continues to be a priority for them and the safest amount of alcohol or drugs to consume before driving is zero.
According to YRP, so far in 2020, there have been 1,555 impaired driving related charges laid. Compared with 2019, when they laid more than 1,700 charges. So far this year, they’ve received nearly 4,400 calls from citizens reporting possible impaired drivers.
Members of the community are encouraged to help police stop and arrest impaired drivers by calling 911.
“Police can only do so much. As a community, we are responsible to take care of our own,” said Mahendram.
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