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

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

North-West Mounted Police barracks at the top of Douglas Street hill, 1885. The man seated at the front was (Colonel Sam Steele. Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 856)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Jan. 21

130 years ago: Kootenay Star, Jan. 24, 1891 An accident occurred at… Continue reading

Liam Harrap, reporter for the Revelstoke Review, gives a sneak peak on what’s making news in Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
A sneak peak at the Jan. 21 news paper

Pick up your copy on news stands today

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Liam Harrap, reporter for the Revelstoke Review, gives a sneak peak on what’s making news in Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
A sneak peak at the Jan. 21 news paper

Pick up your copy on news stands today

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Most Read