(Photo courtesy of Sean Greenard)

Without knowing it, in a matter of seconds, Sean Greenard’s life would change forever. 

On the afternoon of January 6th, James Greenard texted his wife at 5 p.m. to let her know he was on his way home from work in Nanaimo.

That was the last time Sean would hear from her husband. 

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As the hours passed, Sean feared for her husband’s safety after several attempts to call him went to voicemail. 

Fear grew as Sean suspected their light blue car was being shared on Facebook by witnesses of the accident.

“I heard on Facebook that there was an accident and then someone had posted it was a truck and a four door grey car,” Sean told Victoria Buzz.

After asking friends if they knew about her husband’s whereabouts, one of Sean’s friends showed her the image of the vehicles involved. At that moment she knew it was her husband. 

The accident took place on Highway 4 between 4A and Highway 19 near Coombs.

(Google Maps)

At around 5:50 p.m., two vehicles were headed in opposite directions, when a pick-up truck crossed the center line and struck 42-year-old James’ Chevrolet Aveo.

Coming to terms with the accident, Sean spent the next four hours texting James’ family as she waited for the arrival of the police. 

“We had a nauseous sick feeling as we waited. We sat around for hours stressing. His sister was calling the hospitals seeing if he had been admitted anywhere, and he hadn’t, so we were thinking the worst,” says Sean.

At 11 p.m. that night, two officers knocked on the door to confirm the news, James had been struck head-on by an impaired driver with alcohol in their system, and was pronounced dead at the scene. 

In the days since the tragic accident left Sean a widow, the mother of two young children says her 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter are struggling to come to terms with the reality they will not see their father again. 

“He understands dad is gone but I don’t really think it has hit him,” Sean says of her son.

 “My daughter is very afraid of me dying now. She’s been very attached to me. They decided to go to school today and try to keep their minds busy.”

With emotion in her voice, Sean tells Victoria Buzz that the driver responsible for her husband’s death made, “one stupid decision that has changed so many people’s lives, even their own. It was totally avoidable.”

James himself had just celebrated two years of sobriety after overcoming addiction. Together, the Greenards had given up alcohol a few months before to live better lives as a family.

“Alcohol wasn’t James’ problem but we still practiced sober life. We didn’t drink at all and that was a choice we made because it can ruin people’s lives,” Sean told Victoria Buzz.

As Sean and her extended family grieve, she wants more people to be aware of the impact sharing photos of accidents on social media can have on the victims.  

“To sit around for those hours to know that he is possibly dead. I don’t think people should be posting accident photos at all. It’s heartbreaking. The picture of the car will be in my mind forever,” says Sean.

Since the accident, a GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for Sean, who is now raising the couple’s two children as a single mother. In three days, the fundraiser has nearly reached its $50,000 goal. 

“Impaired driving related fatal crashes are still one of the leading causes of criminal death on Canadian highways,” said Cst. Mike Moore, BC Highway Patrol Media Relations Officer. 

“This is 100% preventable–find alternate ways home including taxi, public transit, designated driver or ride-sharing.”   

“Penalties for impaired drivers, especially those who cause injury or death are stiffer than ever–please heed the advice and driver sober always.”

Police are interviewing several witnesses of the collision as a part of their investigation, which officers say is still in its early stages.

Any witnesses are encouraged to contact BC Highway Patrol in Parksville at (250) 248-6111.  

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