The Tri-Cities' generosity is going above and beyond in coming to the aid of a Coquitlam man's family after he died in a fatal multi-vehicle crash last weekend.
Bela Piocza, a tenured city environmental and worksite bylaw officer, was identified by friends and colleagues as the victim of a collision on Saturday (June 25) along Highway 5A near Quilchena Ranch — about 25 km east of Merritt.
Upon learning the tragic news, friends have raised about $64,000 in less than 48 hours for the Piocza family to help cover funeral costs and other related expenses.
And, as of this publication (June 30), the GoFundMe campaign's total is still growing.
"He was truly larger than life and occupied the centre of the room regardless of the occasion," states Lars Craik, organizer of the crowdfunding page.
"He was a loving father, husband, son, sibling, coach, teammate and friend to all that were lucky enough to be in his life."
Motorcycle collides with U-turning SUV
According to BC Highway Patrol (BCHP), two Lower Mainland residents were riding a motorcycle when they collided with the side of an SUV.
"Upon arrival, it was determined that an SUV had pulled to the side of the highway, stopped briefly, then made a U-turn and failed to see an oncoming motorcycle with two riders,” said spokesperson Cpl. Mike Halskov.
He explains the motorcycle operator died, while a female passenger was taken to hospital to be treated for serious injuries.
Halskov adds the driver, who was the lone occupant of the SUV, was not injured.
An investigation is ongoing by BCHP officers in Merritt, but Halskov says speed and impairment are not considered to be contributing factors in the crash.
Craik's GoFundMe description says Piocza's wife Peggy is in "relatively stable" condition and their three sons are currently with their mother as she continues to receive medical attention.
Longtime colleague and friend
Piocza had worked for the City of Coquitlam for more than 20 years — the last 10 were spent as senior officer of environmental and worksite bylaw enforcement.
Since joining the municipality in 2001, department general manager Jaime Boan says Piocza played an integral role in maintaining clean watercourses in efforts to support local fish and wildlife.
Prior to joining Coquitlam's staff, he worked as an animal control officer in Vancouver for almost a decade.
"But, for many, it was his big personality that had the most impact," Boan adds in a statement to the Tri-City News, sharing condolences on behalf of city council and staff.
"As a longtime colleague and friend to many at Coquitlam, Bela touched the hearts of staff across the city. He had a special way of bringing smiles and good cheer wherever he went, and the legacy he leaves to his workplace family is the inspiration to positively impact the lives of others."
Boan's comments also echo Craik's statement about Piocza in that he did whatever he could to bring out the best in people, whether it was looking for a smile or laugh from across the room.
"As much as he would tease and poke fun at us, he did it all with so much love," adds Craik.
"A selfless man that refused to let many things get the best of him — his light will never go dim."
If you wish to contribute to the Piocza family, you can visit the GoFundMe page.
- with files from Kristen Holliday, Castanet