Skull fractured by stranger

A vicious attack by a stranger during a casual Friday night beach fire on Okanagan Lake in Penticton has left a young man in critical condition and his wife shattered.

Brad Eliason, 28, is fighting for his life at Kelowna General Hospital after an allegedly inebriated man punched him so hard he fell back onto the concrete path, causing a skull fracture and brain swelling and forcing doctors to place him into a medically-induced coma to undergo brain surgery.

His wife of two years Chelcie Townend is still in shock. Her husband had simply been down on the beach with a neighbour having a fire Friday, May 3, not looking for a fight.

"There was a bunch of younger kids around who would kinda join in, walk around the fire," Townend said. "These two inebriated men walked over and started harassing some of the kids, some of the people around. He stole one of the kids' hats, tried to rip the shirt off of one the young girls."

Her husband intervened, trying to stick up for the kids.

"I don't know exactly what he said but probably along the lines of 'Leave us alone, we're just trying to have a fire, move along,'" Townend said.

That's when one of the men punched Eliason in the face. Thomas Kruger-Allen, 21, was charged Monday in connection with the incident, facing counts of aggravated assault, sexual assault and two counts of common assault. Kruger Allen has a history of violent offences, and remains behind bars.

Meanwhile, Townend is stuck in a nightmare. She lives in Penticton, but is currently staying in Kelowna with family friends, visiting the hospital every day and keeping on top of the doctors' updates. Eliason's path to recovery is still unclear.

"Basically it's up to Brad now, they're doing everything they can to keep him stabilized, his brain needs to heal, his body needs to heal," Townend said. "They don't know what the outcome is going to be like, whether he's going to come out of this okay, or if there will be some deficits."

She is struggling with the pain of knowing her goofy, hardworking, huge-hearted husband was violently attacked after trying to do the right thing. It's a symptom of a town she no longer recognizes.

"It's absolutely frustrating and horrific, I went to high school here, it's pretty bad that you can't feel safe enough to sit on the beach and have a bonfire," Townend said. "I don't walk anywhere alone, not even five minutes from my house. If it's dark, I don't go out alone."

Friends of the couple have organized a GoFundMe to support Townend while she is off work during Eliason's hospital stay and recovery, which could be lengthy. She gets emotional speaking about the support from her community, with over $2,000 already raised.

"It's amazing, I get emotional about it, because I never ask for help, but we do need help," Townend said. "It's so heartwarming to know that people out there are rooting for us."

After losing her brother, sister and father all in the last 12 years, Townend hopes the man who did this realizes exactly what he has done to her and her family.

"I basically only have my mom left. And the last piece of my heart is in that ICU, and that's what this man and his reckless actions have taken from me," she said. " I want him to think about that and let that resonate with him, what he's taken from me."

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