A year after a horrific drunk-driving crash killed her children and father, a grieving Toronto-area mother says she hopes the tragedy that decimated her family will make people think twice before they get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
In a message posted on Facebook on the eve of the grim anniversary, Jennifer Neville-Lake said that while she can't stop anyone from driving drunk, she hopes they will make the choice not to do so themselves.
"Our story is one fading afternoon and is darkening with time," she wrote.
"I can share with you how hollow and desolate my life is because someone chose to drink and drive on a Sunday afternoon. I can probably make you cry imagining what it is like to be me existing in an empty and dead house," she said.
"But I can't stop you from drinking and driving. My shattered heart can't. My dead dad can't. My dead children can't. Only you can. I hope you choose life."
Neville-Lake lost her three children — nine-year-old Daniel, five-year-old Harrison, and two-year-old Milly — and her father, 65-year-old Gary Neville, when the van they were in was T-boned by an SUV in Vaughan, Ont., on Sept. 27 of last year.
The children's grandmother and great-grandmother were also seriously hurt in the collision.
The driver, Marco Muzzo, was sentenced earlier this year to 10 years in prison on four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Weeks later, Neville-Lake, her husband Edward Lake, and other relatives filed a lawsuit seeking more than $25 million from Muzzo and his family's drywall company. A statement of defence has not yet been filed.
In her post, Neville-Lake says Tuesday marks "the anniversary of my life sentence" and thanks everyone who has shared photos and memories of her lost loved ones.
She also expresses confusion over comments from people she describes as "haters and trolls," and notes that some people have attempted to sell her items they picked up from the crash site.
The crash made headlines across Canada last year and prompted several candlelight vigils to remember the victims and show support for the Neville-Lake family.
But despite the attention, police in the area said drunk driving remains just as prevalent.
More than 1,100 charges related to impaired driving have been laid since the crash, about the same amount as the year before, York Regional Police said in a statement. Before that, they said, drunk-driving incidents had been on the rise for three years.
"The consequences of making these bad decisions have never been more apparent. The grief and sorrow that continue to be felt extend far beyond the immediate family, first responders and our investigators," Chief Eric Jolliffe said. "It has touched our entire community."
During Muzzo's criminal trial, a court heard he picked up his Jeep from an airport parking lot and drove through a stop sign shortly afterward, plowing into the driver's side of the minivan carrying the Neville-Lake family. He was speeding at the time.
The court heard he was so drunk at the time of the crash that he urinated on himself and needed help standing.