Ron Nicolaye and the pole on the Island Highway at the Campbell River bridge that a drunk driver crashed into in 1983, changing his life forever. Photo by Marc Kitteringham – Campbell River Mirror

Ron Nicolaye and the pole on the Island Highway at the Campbell River bridge that a drunk driver crashed into in 1983, changing his life forever. Photo by Marc Kitteringham – Campbell River Mirror

Impaired driving survivor implores people to not drink and drive this holiday season

Campbell River man looks back on 37th anniversary of life-changing incident

On a sunny December afternoon, Ron Nicolaye visited the spot where 37 years before his whole life changed.

In 1983 when he was 21 years old, Nicolaye went out for a night of celebration just before Christmas. He had come into Campbell River from his home in Tahsis to do a bit of holiday shopping and to go out drinking with some buddies. After hitting a few different bars in town, they decided to call it a night.

“We had a fun day of shopping and we went bar hopping that evening. We hit about three bars by the time we were done. I was pretty well hammered,” he remembers.

He got into the car with a designated driver, but some time on the way home, the drivers switched. Five minutes later they ran into a pole on the highway.

“I got into the passenger seat with a designated driver and they proceeded to find where I was staying. Well, being under the influence, I couldn’t tell them directions to where I was staying. After some time driving around, I am passed out. I didn’t realize the drivers were switched so the driver now was impaired,” he said. “We were on the road less than five minutes from what I heard and we hit a pole going highway speed.”

“It changed my life within a second,” he added.

The impact broke Nicolaye’s C5 and C6 vertebrae, and he was transported to a hospital in Vancouver.

“My body hurt so bad and I still didn’t know what happened,” he said. “My dear mom [was] beside me and said I will be OK. I guess she was trying to be strong for me to keep on fighting to stay alive. There were several x-rays and CT scans and the doctor came in and told me I was in a very serious accident and broke my vertebrae in two places. He said I would never walk again and that hit me like a hammer.

“My eyes teared full of water and my life [was] literally upside down. I was a 21-year-old who had everything going for me. It was supposed to be an innocent night out having fun. A tragedy hit not only my life, but changed the entire family forever,” he added.

“To hear the doctor say I would never walk again was a life changer for me. I didn’t want to live that life,” he continued.

Dec. 18 marks the 37th anniversary of Nicolaye’s accident. He has adapted to his new life, advocating for accessibility in Campbell River and talking about the dangers of drinking and driving, but the thought of what could have been still lingers with him.

“I just want to mention to anybody out there to be really careful throughout the holidays not drink and drive because serious consequences like mine can happen,” he said. “Please, I urge everyone to be very careful through the holiday season and always.”

“If I can change even one life, I would like to because I’m living proof of what could happen,” he said.

RELATED: Driver arrested after asking Nanaimo RCMP for advice on avoiding road checks

Man vows to never drive impaired again after hit-and-run severely injures B.C. woman



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell Riverdrunk driverHolidays

Just Posted

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Editorial: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Over 60 Indigenous youth from Qualicum to Malahat are participating in the Step Up Work Placement Program. (Submitted photo)
New Mid-Island Indigenous youth work placement program seeks employer partners

So far, more than 60 youth from Qualicum Beach to the Malahat are participating in the program

Sign of the times: this property on View Street in Chemainus that exp Realty’s Debbie Simmonds had listed at $599,000 sold for $650,000. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Real estate market continues to soar in the Chemainus area

Multiple offers on properties common, leading to sales above listing prices

North Cowichan to consider implementing a new policy on cell towers in the municipality. (File photo)
North Cowichan to consider cell tower policy

Rogers Communications proposal prompts North Cowichan to revisit policy on the structures

Cowichan Valley school district to get new electric-powered bus by the end of the school year. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley school district to get new electric-powered school bus

Bus one of 18 to be distributed across the province

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
‘I am not a virus’: How one postcard sparked a Vancouver Island pushback against racism

Literacy Alberni receives $50K in funding to create web-driven system for reporting racism

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
B.C. teacher suspended after calling students ‘cutie’ and ‘sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

Scenes like this one in the dugout are all too frequent for parents and kids arriving to play baseball at Nunns Creek Park these days, spurring a request to the city to let them move to the Sportsplex in Willow Point. Photo from CRMB presentation to City of Campbell River
Needles, feces and the unhoused send Island kids baseball program to greener pastures

Campbell River minor baseball program switches ballparks over growing safety concerns

Most Read