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'Almost lost my life': Worker severely burned when car crashed into B.C. restaurant speaks out


A worker at a North Vancouver fast food restaurant says she was severely burned when a driver crashed into the building on March 16, knocking hot oil out of the fryer.

Ruby Punzalan, 43, is an area manager for A&W overseeing five locations, including the North Vancouver one, but she has not been able to work since the accident. She will not be able to return for at least a year.

Speaking to CTV News on Thursday, she described the moments after the crash.

“I got up, ran outside, called my mom and the first thing I said was, 'I think I'm going to get blind,'" Punzalan said. "I felt so much heat in my face, my arms, and my legs. It's a very scary thing."

Punzalan was taken to intensive care and spent weeks in hospital after the accident.

"I had no idea – until one of my nurses told me – I went code blue (for cardiac arrest) and I was shocked (with a defibrillator)," said Punzalan. "I don't know what to say. I almost lost my life because of the incident."

The accident happened at 920 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver when a driver plowed into the restaurant while trying to enter the drive-thru.

Images from the scene appeared to show minimal damage to the vehicle – a Subaru Outback. North Vancouver RCMP confirmed to CTV News that the driver is being investigated for being under the influence of alcohol, though no charges have been laid.

The owner of the North Vancouver restaurant, Roger Milad, started a GoFundMe to help support Punzalan’s family. It has reached nearly $29,000, with a goal of $100,000.

“It was terrible what happened to her. I just wanted her to feel that she was loved and thought of,” said Milad.

WorkSafeBC is currently paying her 90 per cent of her salary, but she has received no compensation from ICBC.

The corporation says its hands are tied because the incident happened at work.

“When someone is injured while working, including injuries resulting from a car crash, it’s a WorkSafe claim," said ICBC spokesperson Greg Harper.

"ICBC will cover any benefits needed that aren’t covered from WorkSafe."

The corporation adds if the driver is convicted of a criminal offence, Punzalan can take legal action.

She hopes her ordeal is a lesson for drivers to be cautious.

“(My daughter) always tells me, 'Mom, don’t worry, it’s only the skin. You’re still the same mom.' So, that keeps me going,” Punzalan said. Top Stories

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