Support in Alberta for family devastated by Oyen crash has ‘touched our hearts’

The Jeffreys family has been overwhelmed by support from friends, loved ones and strangers since an Aug. 7 collision near Oyen, Alta., changed their lives forever.

The crash, which involved two tractor-trailers and the family’s Kia Sedona, occured on Highway 9 at Range Road 60.

The B.C. family’s minivan was stopped in a construction zone. A semi was coming up behind them and Bob Jeffreys said it didn’t stop. The force of the impact sent their vehicle into a parked tractor-trailer in front of them.

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Ten-year-old Zachary Jeffreys was killed in the crash.

Eight-year-old Lillian Jeffreys suffered a skull fracture. Seven-year-old Gabriel Jeffreys will need reconstructive facial surgery, will lose one of his eyes and may have suffered brain damage, Bob says. Carla Jeffreys broke several bones and has a tear in her aorta.

READ MORE: Child dead, 4 injured after multiple-vehicle crash near Oyen, Alta.

On Friday, Bob told Global News he’s been travelling between the Ronald McDonald House (where he and his daughter are), to Foothills Hospital (where his wife is), and the Alberta Children’s Hospital (where his son Gabriel is).

“I’ve been bringing my daughter over to play with my son because that’s lifting his morale,” Bob said. “He’s been not only physically traumatized by the accident, but emotionally as well. We’re seeing things from him being expressed that we’ve never seen before.”

Carla has also been battling some hurdles in her recovery. Last Friday, Bob said she had a really bad stomach ulcer and lost a lot of blood.

“She almost passed away. But luckily the doctors and the staff there were able to save her. She’s stabilized and back in PCU now.”

Bob is finding solace in community, in the outpouring of support the family is experiencing and in the health-care workers.

READ MORE: Dad speaks about Alberta crash that killed son: ‘If there was one person I knew ready to be an angel, it was him’

“The response times of the people involved, STARS… the other helicopter (HALO)… Ronald McDonald House, just all of the parties involved in helping us stabilize through something so traumatic? I can’t imagine what it would look like anywhere else. I’m very grateful — despite everything that’s happened to us — that it happened here and we’ve had the support of your community. It’s really touched our hearts.

“We’re planning on staying in Alberta,” he said. “We were already considering it… We’re going to make Calgary home.”

The family has a long road ahead. They’ll need to find an adaptive home, Bob says, while dealing with insurance and finding a lawyer. Even with all the support, it’s exhausting.

“I’ve not stopped because I know if I do, my wife is going to lose out — there’s points where she almost did — my son will lose out, because he needs us to advocate for him,” Bob said.

“We haven’t even begun to grieve the loss of our son (Zachary) because we’ve been so busy just trying to stay on top of things and make sure nothing gets missed for our daughter, for our son Gabriel and for my wife herself.

“All we’re left with is the curiosity and the wonder of who he might have become based on what we knew up until the point he was snatched away from us.”

READ MORE: 3 people from Saskatoon killed in fiery multi-vehicle crash in central Alberta

Bob was stunned to hear about another fatal crash on Highway 9.

Three adults were killed and 10 other people injured on Tuesday when at least 10 vehicles — including two semi-trucks hauling fuel — crashed in a construction zone along Highway 9 near Cereal, Alta.

“My question is: why? If the construction crew set up the site properly, if the government’s been in there to inspect the site and regulate it properly, then why within 10 to 12 days do you have two major accidents that have taken people’s lives and have impacted the community around that location?”

“I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the memory,” Bob said.

“All I know is that it’s hugely suspect that you have that happening in the same location within such a short breadth of time and under virtually the same conditions, from what I understand.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver said the province is taking a closer look at the site.

“We will continue to assess the way that we had our construction site. Our initial assessment is that everything was done according to the rules, however we will continue to look at it to see if there’s something we can learn to keep Albertans safe.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon company mourns ‘highly loved’ employee killed in Alberta highway crash

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page created by friends to help the Jeffreys continues to grow. As of Friday night, more than $98,000 had been raised.

“At the end of the day, community isn’t always the people who are directly around you,” Bob said. “It can be broader than that.

“The people who’ve expressed their support through prayer, through encouragement online, through the funds, these are all people we consider as part of our community.”

Bob even shared a video of Carla’s recovery — moving around in the hospital and trying to walk — on the GoFundMe page.

“We’ve been inspired by other people’s stories, them pushing through hard times, and if we share a little bit of ours and that can help somebody else, then we’re happy to do it.”