British Columbia

Father of 10-year-old killed in Alberta crash says family's recovery will be long

The father of a 10-year-old boy who was killed in a crash on an Alberta highway last week is opening up about what happened.

'I could see that my wife's side of the vehicle was crushed in,' says father

Bob Chaylt Jeffreys and his son Zachary Jeffreys last summer. (Photo submitted by Bob Chaylt Jeffreys)

The father of a 10-year-old boy who was killed in a crash on an Alberta highway last week says his wife and two surviving children remain in hospital, where they are recovering from their injuries. 

Bob Chaylt Jeffreys, 41, was driving with his three children and his wife on Wednesday when they stopped at a construction zone behind a tractor-trailer on a highway northwest of Oyen, Alta., 300 kilometres east of Calgary. 

"All I remember is looking at the tail lights of the transport trailer in front of me ... and then I blacked out," said Jeffreys. 

The family's Kia Sedona minivan was struck from behind by a semi-trailer, which propelled them into the vehicle in front of them, say RCMP. 

"When I came to, there was a lot of commotion. I looked back at the vehicle, I could see that my wife's side of the vehicle was crushed in. I believe they were prying her out with some equipment and I could see my children on stretchers."

Zachary, 10, was killed on impact.

Lillian, 8, Gabriel, 7, and Jeffreys' wife, Carla Chambers Jeffreys, 36, were all seriously injured.

A recent photo of Zachary Jeffreys, who died Aug. 7 after his family's SUV was struck by tractor-trailer on a highway near Oyen, Alta. (Photo submitted by Bob Chaylt Jeffreys)

Jeffreys said several signs leading up to the construction site warned drivers to slow down to at least 50 km/h. He says he slowed to 45 km/h. 

"My wife said that before the accident ... she looked in the rearview mirror right before we were hit ... she saw the truck coming. She said she could tell it was going too fast and that's all she remembered."

Jeffreys learned of his son's death once he reached Oyen. He was then driven to Calgary and treated for his injuries. 

From left to right: Zachary, Lillian (bottom), their grandmother, Carla Chambers Jeffreys, Bob Chaylt Jeffreys, and Gabriel in December 2014. (Photo submitted by Bob Chaylt Jeffreys)

Long recovery

Jeffreys says the family had been heading east to find better support for seven-year-old Gabriel, who has severe autism.

Gabriel and Lillian were airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital. They are both now in stable condition.

But Gabriel will lose at least one eye, says Jeffreys, after sustaining significant facial injuries.

Jeffreys suffered a concussion and a broken shoulder. Lillian suffered a fracture to her head.

Chambers Jeffreys was airlifted to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. On Sunday she underwent surgery to mend a tear in her aorta, among other injuries, according to Jeffreys.

Moving to another province

Chambers Jeffreys is a classical singer and a scholar. She had been working in arts administration in Vancouver with local organizations, including City Opera of Vancouver and the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. 

Jeffreys is an artist and designer. The couple is currently unemployed.

"We were literally on a string and a prayer and, despite how careful we were, unfortunately this happened."

Lillian and Zachary Jeffreys on their way to school. (Photo submitted by Bob Chaylt Jeffreys)

Jeffreys said the recovery process will be long and difficult, as they will all require physical therapy. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the family.

Alberta RCMP say the investigation is ongoing and no arrests have yet been made. They are not releasing the name of the truck driver. 

With files from Clare Hennig