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

There still has been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing into the deaths of Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie on Christmas Eve, 2019. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in solving the crime. This memorial, located near Trunk Road and Canada Avenue where the crime occurred, still stands at the site of the double homicide. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Investigation continues into Duncan double murder

Police ask anyone with information on Christmas Eve, 2019, crime to contact them

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

Extensive water on No. 4 and 5 at the Mount Brenton Golf Course following heavy rains earlier this month. (Photo submitted)
Mount Brenton Golf Course does a booming business in 2020

A total of 15,000 more rounds played than the previous year

The memorial site for double-murder victims Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, located in Charles Hoey Park, will be allowed to stay for another two months after the City of Duncan changed its policy on temporary memorials. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan allows temporary memorials to stay longer

Policy change related to memorial for double-homicide victims in city park

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read