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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New street signs in Duncan in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional native names on signs

Possible COVID-19 exposures may have occurred at Alexander Elementary School on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. (Google Maps)
Alexander Elementary in Duncan announces possible COVID-19 exposures

Exposures may have occurred on Jan. 13, 14 and 15

North Cowichan to add three more off-leash dog areas in the new year. (File photo)
North Cowichan adds three new off-leash areas

Trial program runs through 2021, but not the summer months

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

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

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Most Read