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Man whose SUV hit Red Cross building relives chaos and fallout

The driver whose car was cared for through an intersection and into the Red Cross building in Victoria recalls the incident: “My mom told me after the fact: ‘I looked over and it looked like you were dancing to the music.’ I said: ‘I was not dancing, Mom – I was having a seizure.’ ”

John Enever was driving to his mom’s home in James Bay after a day of sightseeing up Iceland when everything went black.

As his body convulsed and his foot floored the accelerator of his SUV, he pushed two cars stopped at the traffic light into the intersection at Quadra Street and Fairfield Road, struck a pedestrian and careened into a building.

“My mom told me after the fact: ‘I looked over and it looked like you were dancing to the music,’” said Enever, 49, of Vancouver. “I said: ‘I wasn’t dancing, Mom – I was having a seizure.’”

The crash at the Fairfield intersection at 4:30 pm on May 10 sent Enever to hospital with a broken femur, his mother with shoulder and back injuries, and his friend Hilda, visiting from Mexico, with a slash to the back of her leg. The police did not provide an update on the condition of the pedestrian.

Enever’s beloved dog Rita – a seven-year-old Labrador-Shepherd – suffered a spinal cord injury causing partial paralysis and was euthanized, while Marker, an 11-year-old terrier, had only soft tissue injuries.

Enever had been in Victoria from Vancouver to show Hilda the Island and introduce her to his mom, Penny Pitcher, 76.

Mom and son picked up Hilda on their return from the Malahat Skywalk – Hilda opted to take in Butchart Gardens instead – and the three were just five minutes from Pitcher’s home in James Bay when all their lives changed.

It’s still unknown what brought on the seizure. A battery of tests – a brain MRI, an EEG and an ECG and blood tests – could not find a cause.

Enever says he was told his legs had locked, pressing the gas pedal to the floor, before his BMW SUV hit a sedan carrying parents and two young children, which, in turn, hit a Smart car. “Thankfully no one else was hurt,” said Enever.

Enever’s vehicle then carried on through the intersection to the left, over a sidewalk curb where a pedestrian had to leap to safety, and finally came to rest at the door of the Canadian Red Cross Society building on the corner of the intersection.

Luckily, a physician was at the scene and paramedics arrived quickly.

“I did not have a pulse,” said Enever, who was found slumped over the driver’s wheel. All airbags in the vehicle had deployed.

Enever’s clothes were ripped off and CPR was started – he does not know by whom. He chokes up recounting accounts from witnesses and medical staff.

“I came to the back of an ambulance with the attendant holding my hand,” said Enever. He asked the paramedic about his mother and dogs.

His mother was in hospital for nine days with extensive shoulder, back and leg pain and is wearing a brace. His friend Hilda was stitched up and discharged. Enever had a titanium rod screwed into his femur. He was in hospital eight days – in the hallway for the final three. He’s never been updated on the fourth person, the pedestrian, taken to hospital that day.

Enever does not bemoan his injuries or the loss of his vehicle, which he had acquired only six weeks earlier, but feels terrible that his mother, who was fit and living independently, but is now in pain and needing home support.

As well, he says his grief over the loss of his dog has been compounded by what he considers an excessive vet bill, which he says he was given 24 hours to pay while still in hospital.

After the crash, Enever’s dogs were taken in by Victoria Animal Control, which can authorize care for the animals until the owner is able to do so.

Once Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital was able to contact Enever on May 11, following his surgery, he chose to have Rita euthanized after learning she had a spinal-cord injury. “If she can not run or swim or chase down her Frisbee, she has no life.”

The veterinary hospital sent Enever a photo of Rita with a note, as if written by her, “Hi there daddy! it’s your girl Rita checking in to say goodbye to you… Just know that I love you dad! Until we meet again, Rita. ”

Enever chokes up reading the letter and his reply. He called it a sweet expression, but said it was all business after that.

Enever said he was overwhelmed in hospital trying to understand the arrangements and costs while “doped up on morphine” and without his reading glasses. He understood it was about $ 600 for Marker if he had someone pick him up immediately, and $ 1,000 to euthanize Rita.

“And then they send me a bill while I’m still in the hospital for $ 2,800 and change with a demand letter that it must be paid within 24 hours.”

The invoice for Marker was $ 609.58, and the one for Rita was $ 2,253.13 for stabilization, pain medication, hospitalization and euthanasia, for a total bill of $ 2,862.71.

An emailed letter dated May 12 from Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital said payment was required within 24 hours, after which Rita would be cremated.

Once he was back in Vancouver, Enever said, he told the company he felt the bill was unreasonable – “almost $ 3,000 to essentially put down your dog and look after the other one for a day” – and tried to negotiate the amount, but was told if the bill was not paid in full, he would be charged two per cent interest monthly before it was sent to a collection agency.

“Unfortunately, the initial costs were authorized by Victoria Animal Control when they brought in your dogs, which they have authorization to do,” said the veterinary hospital in a text exchange.

The Times Colonist contacted VCA Canada in Calgary, after which they accepted Enever’s payment of $ 1,000, which they told him they will put towards their charity that helps underprivileged owners of animals in need.

Enever said in the last three months, he made multiple trips to the Island to help his mother, who does not drive, after the recent death of her husband. He had been waiting for a nice day to take her to the Malahat Skywalk.

He looks over the digital map showing the crash site and his mother’s home.

“We were five minutes from my Mom’s home,” he said. “So utterly devastating.”


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