When Vic Barnabe and his girlfriend happened to drive past an accident scene early on Christmas Eve, he figured the crash was fatal. He didn't know that, by grim coincidence, the casualty was one of his best friends.
"We drove right by it and we thought for sure somebody had died," said Barnabe on Tuesday. "But you never think or imagine it could be somebody that close to you."
Matthew Grestoni, 25, died Monday from injuries sustained in a collision on Fermor Avenue, just west of the Plessis overpass. Police said the crash occurred around 7:45 a.m. and involved two vehicles.
A woman was also taken to hospital and is listed in serious but stable condition.
What Barnabe remembers most about the young man, known to friends simply as "G," was his outgoing personality.
"He had a great sense of humour," Barnabe said. "And he had this goofy laugh. He'd be trying to tell you a story but he could never get it out without laughing first."
Barnabe said Grestoni also displayed a strong work ethic -- so much so, he referred his former roommate to a job with Shaw Communications almost a year ago. They had worked together since.
"He was like the little brother I never had," said Barnabe, 38. "He taught me a lot about life along the way."
According to Barnabe and Grestoni's longtime friend, Anthony Munoz, things had never been better for the Red River College graduate.
He was happy with his new job and had recently moved into a new dwelling. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Grestoni had hit some rough patches along the way, but Munoz said his friend was always the first to seek a silver lining.
"There were certain situations life threw at him that most people would just give up, but G always had a great attitude and he would never give up," said Munoz, 25. "He had the heart of a lion, that guy."
Munoz first met Grestoni when his elementary school burned down and he was forced to finish the year at École Van Belleghem, which Grestoni attended. The two became quick friends, graduated high school together and remained close through the typical transitions of young adulthood.
"I've never seen him more happy," said Munoz, who last saw Grestoni at a Christmas party Dec. 19. "I can honestly say my last moments with Matt were perfect... I couldn't have asked for better."
Barnabe said his final memory of Grestoni was from Friday morning, the last day of work before the Christmas holidays.
"I walked into the office and saw him with a big smile on his face, ready to start his workday."
Little did Barnabe know it was the last time he would see his friend alive and the last time he would see that smile.
"He had such a bright future," Barnabe said. "He was taken way too soon."
Police continue to investigate the crash.
-- with files from Meghan Franklin