TORONTO — The deputy chief for the firefighters who responded to the fatal collision in Vaughan that killed three children and their grandfather says it is “out of the norm” for the suspect’s Jeep to have caught fire while in police custody last week.
On Sept. 27, a minivan carrying six people — three adults and three children under the age of 10 — was struck by a Jeep at the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Kirby Road at approximately 4:10 p.m. ET northeast of Kleinburg in Vaughan.
Daniel Neville-Lake, nine, his five-year-old brother Harrison, and their little sister Milly, two, all died after their minivan was struck in the collision.
The children’s 65-year-old grandfather, identified as Gary Neville, died at the scene and two other women were rushed to hospital with serious injuries. They have been identified as the children’s grandmother and great-grandmother.
York Regional Police said Wednesday that the front grill of the Jeep, which was seized for evidence, ignited at police headquarters after an electrical fire at about 6 p.m. on Sept. 28, one day after the collision.
Central York firefighters responded to the fire at police headquarters at 47 Don Hillock Drive in Aurora, Ont. and police said the fire was quickly extinguished and the “integrity of the evidence was not compromised.”
WATCH: York Regional Police have confirmed that the Jeep involved in the fatal collision in Vaughan that killed three children and their grandfather caught fire while in police custody Monday night.
Central York Fire Chief Ian Laing said that while “finding the battery and disconnecting it is a standard course of action” after a collision, the Jeep’s battery was located in an area of the vehicle that “wasn’t normal” — meaning it was under the passenger floor instead of under the hood.
Vaughan Fire and Rescue Services Deputy Chief Andrew Zvanitajs said it was protocol for the Jeep’s battery to be disconnected if it posed a safety hazard, but that it wasn’t removed in this case.
“Obviously if the police are saying don’t go near the vehicle and we don’t have a reason to go near it, we don’t want to contaminate or disrupt any evidence that they’ve seized,” said Zvanitajs.
“Police asked our chief officer on scene to not touch it and we felt that there was no reason to go looking for that battery or to do anything at that time. If the police ask you to not contaminate the scene, we need a pretty good reason to go in there and do that.”
Zvanitajs said he attended the scene of the collision in Vaughan on Sunday night, before it had been taken to police headquarters.
“The police had it cordoned off and they had it cordoned off quite wide and obviously there was no signs of smoke or fire when Vaughan [firefighters] attended so I can’t really speak to what happened after that,” he said, adding that the Jeep was then towed to police headquarters where it caught fire the following night.
“That happens so infrequently and so rarely, that I couldn’t even find anecdotal evidence of that happening. If you’ve gone to a fire and the vehicle has been involved in a fire you put it out and then it gets towed, well now you’re dragging air through it you may get hot spots reignite but it’s so rare.”
Zvanitajs said that he could not speculate on what happened to the Jeep after it left Vaughan to when it arrived at police headquarters.
“It was out of our care. It was safe when we had it and when we left, I can’t speak to what happened to it,” he said.
“That would be out of the norm for something like that to happen for sure. I’ve never attended a call like that, that’s not to say that it was impossible but there would have to be a reason for that and I can’t comment on why that would happen because the vehicle wasn’t in our possession, I didn’t see it.”
Global News obtained the fire report from Central York Fire Services, the firefighters that responded to the Jeep fire at York Regional Police headquarters, which said that the official cause of the fire was “undetermined.”
Laing said that fire captain who responded to the scene “didn’t have a cause for the fire.”
“I guess because the vehicle was in custody essentially in a secure area that they didn’t bother doing any further investigation from a fire perspective. But the police were there and they did document everything that happened,” he said.
“All I can go by is what it says in our report and the acting captain at the time just put down that he didn’t have a cause for the fire, but like I said the police were there so we kind of bow to their expertise for investigation on those types of things.”
When reached for comment, York Regional Police said they were unable to provide a response by deadline.
Marco Muzzo, 29, of King Township, has been charged with a dozen impaired-driving offences in connection with the collision and was remanded in custody on Friday until his bail hearing on Oct. 19.
An online fundraising campaign set up for the victims’ family has since raised more than $240,000.
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