Grieving family trying to recover after young son killed in crash near Oyen

Click to play video: 'Grieving family piecing their lives together months after young son’s fatal crash' Grieving family piecing their lives together months after young son’s fatal crash
WATCH: It's been almost five months since a tragedy near Oyen, Alta. shattered a B.C. family. Jill Croteau reconnected with the family to see how they're doing now – Jan 3, 2020

The Jeffreys family clings to moments of happy. They lean in to the laughter to help them remember what it feels like to be happy.

It’s been five months since their lives changed. A tragic crash claimed the life of 10-year-old Zachary, Bob and Carla Jeffreys’ oldest son.

“It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen him. It feels like he was just right here,” Bob said.

“There’s an echo. It’s like when you move into a space and there’s no furniture. The more you fill, the less the echo. But no matter what we fill our days with, there’s always this space,” Carla said.

Zachary Jeffreys. Courtesy: Carla Jeffreys

Zachary’s eight-year-old sister Lillian misses him very much.

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“Every recess I would walk around alone and then when I get home, we used to play together, so I guess I’m just feeling kinda lonely,” Lillian said.

Zachary and Lillian. Courtesy: Bob Jeffreys

They were on a road trip relocating from their Vancouver home on Aug. 7, 2019.

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 family’s minivan was stopped in a construction zone near Oyen, Alta.

A semi travelling down Highway 9 slammed into them.

The family\’s mini-van after the crash.
The family\’s mini-van after the crash. Courtesy: Bob Jeffreys

“I remember we were sitting stationary behind the truck and I looked in the rear view and I saw the truck coming towards us and the last thought I had was: ‘He’s not slowing down,’ and I felt the impact and everything blacked out,” Carla recalled.

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“I knew there was no way Zachary could have survived. And I looked at Gabriel — his face was shattered and he was struggling to breathe.”

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

The family is still healing from their own injuries.

Bob has a severe concussion, Carla still isn’t sure if she’ll ever regain full mobility of one of her legs, and the long-term prognosis for Lillian and Gabriel isn’t clear.

“Gabriel’s life is changed dramatically. They had to reconstruct his whole face,” Bob said. “The level of trauma that little boy went through alone is heartbreaking. Even when I look at my daughter, she’s not the same person.”

Lillian, Gabriel and Zachary. Courtesy: Carla Jeffreys

“Lillian went for neurology assessment and that’s when we found out, beyond a skull fracture, she had a frontal lobe brain bleed. It’s going to be a big question mark on her recovery.”

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The family has now settled into a home in Calgary and plan on staying for the next couple of years. They don’t lose sight of what they have left.

“You realize you could have lost everything very quickly, so we landed in a place we are grateful to still have each other,” Bob said.

The family has planned Zachary’s funeral for January 11, on what would have been his 11th birthday.

RCMP said the investigation is continuing and no charges have been laid, they expect some closure on the case hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

“Whatever happens to that semi driver, he’s going to have his soul to live with regardless and I’m still going to be without my child,” Carla said.

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