A Toronto family says it’s “devastated” after a young man’s life was cut short due to the reckless choices of an allegedly drunk driver on Canada Day.
Gregory Girgis, 26, died at the scene of the crash near University Avenue and Wellington Avenue West. Another pedestrian, a 32-year-old male, was transported to hospital for treatment after suffering what police referred to as severe injuries.
Girgis’ brother Victor Girgis told the Star the family is living through incredible pain. Gregory left behind three brothers and a sister, as well as his parents.
“Parents should never have to bury their child,” said Victor, Gregory’s younger brother by 16 months.
“I grew up sleeping in the same bedroom with him,” he remembered.
He described his brother as “a great person to hang out with,” a very happy person who always laughed at his own jokes and was very skilled in the service and bartending industry — he was killed on his way back from work at a downtown Jack Astor’s.
“He had a very obnoxious laugh that I think most people will always remember him for,” said Victor, adding his brother was also a good athlete with hockey and baseball, and loved fantasy sports.
Victor said he feels angry over the stupidity of the crash that killed his brother, adding he hopes the driver will offer a sincere apology to the families he has ruined.
“That guy doesn’t deserve to drive ever again after this,” he said.
Police said the multi-vehicle collision was caused by the impaired driver of a Jeep SUV who ran a red light at the downtown intersection and struck two other vehicles in the process.
Nitan Thakur, 26, of Toronto, is facing six charges that include impaired driving causing death and bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm, and speeding causing death and bodily harm.
According to police, Thakur is one of more than a dozen drivers who were arrested for getting behind the wheels while impaired over the Canada Day long weekend.
A total of 15 drivers have been arrested and charged with various counts over the weekend, and several others are facing pending charges as investigations continue, said traffic services Sgt. Murray Campbell.
“It is disappointing to see even one person making those criminal choices,” he said.
“Anything more than zero is unacceptable. We now leave it to the criminal justice system to hold those guilty of these crimes accountable for their actions.”
Girgis’ death marked the city’s 25th road fatality of the year. More than half of these victims were pedestrians, according to police data.
Every road fatality or collision caused by an impaired driver should serve as a wake-up call that the approach to both education and enforcement of this issue must change, said Brian Patterson, president and CEO of Ontario Safety League — a traffic safety organization whose mission is to educate the public and raise awareness about road safety.
“We are not achieving our goals,” he said, noting people are not abandoning their drinking and driving behaviour despite increasing numbers of road fatalities and injuries.
He said most drivers who get pulled over for impaired driving aren’t doing so for the first time. Statistics have also shown that more than 70 per cent of drivers who get their licenses suspended for impaired driving continue to drive anyway, he said.
The fact typical punishments don’t work shows why it’s important to deal with impaired drivers as people who are likely to have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, he said.
“What we have is people who are unable to follow logic,” he said, adding that although most people comply with the law, there’s a critical core of drivers “who are going to put themselves ahead of everything.”
“We should use this as an opportunity to screen for addiction and provide assistance.”
Gilbert Ngabo is a Toronto-based crime reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo