Families, friends and loved ones are just beginning to wrestle with their grief following the tragic deaths of two Nanaimo men on the weekend.
Jovan Salapura, 52, and Jarrett Swackhamer, 21, died at the scene after a Chevy Cavalier, travelling the wrong way at high speed on Highway 10 in Surrey, slammed into their Nissan Pathfinder shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday.
Swackhamer’s girlfriend Mikaela, 21, (family members requested her last name be withheld) was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries and is in an induced coma.
The driver of the Chevy Cavalier, Jason Dumma, 37, from the Lower Mainland, also died in the crash.
Surrey RCMP have not determined why Dumma drove his car into oncoming traffic. Police are checking Dumma’s car for mechanical defects and are waiting for a toxicology report which could determine if drugs or alcohol factored in the crash.
“We’re talking to as many people as we can to try and find out background on him to try and work that out,” said Sgt. Phil Hasenflug of the Surrey RCMP traffic section.
Salapura and Swackhamer were heavy machine operators and regarded as among the best in their trade in the province.
Salapura, owner of Cedar Excavating, was working a job in the Lower Mainland. Swackhamer was on a day off from his job building logging roads and was going to work with Salapura for the day.
Naida Salapura, Jovan’s mother, and Swackhamer’s mother, Bonnie, said the men shared a genuine bond and were more like brothers than co-workers. They were both passionate about heavy machinery and their trades.
“[Jovan] was working for a company in Surrey,” said his mother.
“There was a 100-acre property they were developing and he being one of the best operators around, he was called over to do the job.”
Jovan Salapura operated heavy machinery, starting with a backhoe, since he was 14 and took many promising operators under his wing – operators like Swackhamer, who graduated from Vancouver Island University’s heavy machine operator program at the top of his class in 2008.
“Jarrett was only 21, but he outdid people who were 40 years old and they were just amazed at his ability,” Naida Salapura said. “He loved his work and if you love your work you can do a good job.”
Jovan Salapura had just picked up Swackhamer and his girlfriend from the last ferry sailing to Tsawwassen.
“They were all so excited because this was huge equipment they were going to be working on,” said Bonnie Swackhamer.
Jarrett Swackhamer was the youngest of three brothers. His mother said he was a huge part of their lives and, as the youngest, kept everyone else in the family young.
He also loved to educate young people and often spoke to them about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“He had a great life, it was just too short,” Bonnie Swackhamer said.
Shauna Nash, Jovan Salapura’s common-law partner, said they were going to be married and were planning their future together.
He was learning to swim and they planned to take up scuba diving together.
Nash said he was a caring, respectful, decent, loving man. A hard worker, passionate about his work and someone who would go beyond the call of duty to help somebody out. She said he ran his excavators like they were part of his body.
“This is such a tragedy,” she said. “It’s such a big loss for so many of us. He was a good dad. He was so healthy. It’s not his time.”
Naida Salapura said she’s proud to have had her son in her life.
“He was there for us and we certainly were there for him,” she said.