TORONTO — One of Canada’s wealthiest families expressed sorrow and sympathy Tuesday after one of its own was accused in an alleged drunk driving incident that claimed the lives of three children and their grandfather.
Marco Muzzo, of King Township, Ont., faces a dozen impaired-driving offences and six charges related to the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle after he allegedly crashed into a minivan carrying six members of a family on Sunday.
“We are all greatly saddened by yesterday’s tragedy and express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Neville, Lake and Frias families,” Muzzo’s mother, Dawn, said in a statement bearing Monday’s date.
“We would ask for the co-operation of the media in respecting the privacy of our family during this very difficult time.”
The Muzzo family owns the drywall company Marel Contractors and is worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine. The family had not spoken publicly since the fatal crash in Vaughan, north of Toronto.
Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harrison, 5, their sister Milly, 2, and the kids’ 65-year-old grandfather died following the crash.
A candlelight vigil is planned for the Neville-Lake family Thursday night at St. Padre Pio church in Vaughan.
Thousands of people have also donated to an online fundraiser in the names of the four victims. By noon Tuesday, more than $150,000 had been raised through the GoFundMe campaign.
A bail hearing for Marco Muzzo is scheduled Friday.
His late grandfather, Marco Muzzo Sr., immigrated to Canada from Italy in the 1950s and became a highly influential developer in the Toronto area.
“He built most of Mississauga,” the city’s former mayor, Hazel McCallion, said in an interview. “Very generous man, very responsible — his word was as good as his signature.”
She described the late Muzzo as “very private” and said the family “must be under great, great stress.”
Before the crash, Marco Muzzo had seven non-criminal offences, including a conviction for driving with a handheld device, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
Muzzo’s previous offences occurred throughout the Toronto area, from Richmond Hill to Newmarket, Orillia and Mississauga, the ministry said.
His lawyer, Rudi Covre, said he was unaware of the previous offences but does not believe they’ll have any effect on the criminal case.
“There may be a minimal role that they play but I don’t think there will be any impact,” he said. “A lot of kids, a lot of people have traffic tickets.”
He added he didn’t yet know how his client intended to plead.
Marco Muzzo was charged last March with holding a handheld communication device while driving in Caledon, Ont., according to a copy of the ticket obtained by The Canadian Press.
A Caledon courthouse clerk says he failed to respond to the ticket and was automatically convicted and paid the $280 fine.
In February 2012, Muzzo was charged with speeding, allegedly travelling 134 kilometres per hour in a 100 km/h zone on Highway 407 in Oshawa, Ont., at 10:46 a.m.
A Durham Whitby court clerk said the speeding ticket was withdrawn and no reasons were given.
In October 2012, Muzzo was charged with driving an off-road vehicle on a highway instead of on the shoulder in Severn Township, south of the Muskokas. Court records indicated he paid both fines — $110 each.
A woman calling herself a friend of the Neville-Lake family has started an online petition urging the federal government to increase penalties for impaired driving.
“There needs to be NO MERCY! It should be very simple. If you drink & then drive, YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL!,” Jacky Duncan wrote.
MADD Canada said there are somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 deaths related to impaired driving in Canada each year.
The organization’s CEO, Andrew Murie, said both the federal and provincial governments should take a harder stance against impaired driving.
Provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta have seen drastic drops in impaired driving incidents once they began impounding the vehicles of those found to have 50 and 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, he said.
Anything above 80 milligrams is a criminal offence, but provinces impose their own penalties in the 50-range. In Ontario, those penalties are a three-day licence suspension and $180 fine for a first offence.