Jeremy Renner is sharing just how serious the situation truly was after he was crushed by a 7-ton snowplow on New Year’s Day.
In his new tell-all interview about the accident, his neighbors, who he credits with saving his life, reveal that they thought he had passed away in the snow at one moment, and he thought he was near death too – so much so that he wrote some “last words” for his family.
“Don’t let me live in tubes on a machine,” he recalled writing in a note on his phone, “and if my existence is going to be on drugs and painkillers, just let me go now.”
He typed the note out because he could not speak after his chest and back were completely crushed by the snowplow, but he also remembered telling his family “I’m sorry” in sign language, “because I am sorry I did that to them, and it’s my responsibility. I feel bad my actions caused so much pain.”
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“Jeremy Renner: The Diane Sawyer Interview – A Story of Terror, Survival and Triumph” aired Thursday on ABC, and featured a detailed explanation by Renner and his nephew, Alex Fries, on exactly how the accident happened.
The actor’s large family was staying with him in his Reno, Nevada, home, located up in the Sierra Mountains, and they had decided to go skiing on New Year’s Day after a snowstorm had hit the town. As they were getting things prepared, Renner and his nephew went outside to move one of the family’s trucks out of the driveway. He manned the snowplow, which he said he had used countless times before, while Fries connected a chain from the plow to the front of the truck.
“Too many things are going on in the body to feel pain, it’s everything. It’s like if your soul could have pain.”
They managed to pull the truck into the road in front of the house, but then Renner began to lose control of the machine on the ice. He became nervous because he could not see his nephew, and he made the decision to lean out to look back for him. He kept one half of his body inside the cab but did not engage the parking break.
“I just happened to be the dummy standing on the dang track a little bit, seeing if my nephew is there,” he said. “Should be inside the vehicle when you’re operating it, it’s kind of like driving a car with your foot outside the car … it’s my mistake and I paid for it.”
He said that what happened next was a blur, but he fell out of the cab completely and then saw that the plow was rolling backwards on the ice towards his nephew, so he tried to climb back in the huge machine to stop it. In doing so, he stood on the tracks, which rolled and pushed him off. He then felt the tracks going over his feet, then his legs and on upwards to crush the rest of his body.
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“That’s where I screamed, by the way,” he told Sawyer, “when I went under the thing, ‘Not today, motherf—er.’ That’s what I screamed, sorry for the language ….”
“I was awake through all of it, it’s exactly how you’d imagine it feels like … I was on asphalt and ice … it feels like someone took the wind out of you. Too many things are going on in the body to feel pain, it’s everything. It’s like if your soul could have pain.”
When the tracks of the snowplow reached his head, he said it pushed his eyeball out of its socket, recalling “I could see my eye with my other eye.”
While this was happening, Fries could not see his uncle, but he did see the snowplow headed for him, so he jumped in the truck. He was pushed against a snowbank but was uninjured, and when he exited the vehicle he saw the grisly scene and said in the interview that he “didn’t think he was alive.”
Renner’s nephew did not have his phone on him, but as he looked around he noticed that a nearby house had its garage door cracked open, and he saw someone’s legs inside, so he ran over and lunged under the door, screaming for help – he had reached Rich Kovach, the neighbor who ended up making the 911 call that also aired in the interview.
Because of the snowstorm, it took first responders just over 20 minutes to make it to Renner, and in that time, Kovach and his partner, Barb Fletcher, did what they could to keep the injured star alive.
“He just kept closing his eyes and I just did not want him to close his eyes,” Fletcher said. “At one point I looked down because I just wouldn’t take my eyes off of him because I didn’t want him to drift off, and at one point he just got this clammy feel to him and turned this gray/green color, and I feel in my heart that I lost him for a second. He closed his eyes, and I just tried to keep him awake.”
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She began crying, saying, “I really feel like he passed away for a couple seconds, I really do.”
Kovach agreed, and in the 911 call, he could be heard pleading for help to come quickly because “his breaths were getting shorter.”
Finally, a fire truck arrived, and an ambulance soon after. The nurse who was in the ambulance explained that Renner was in such bad shape that needles had to be inserted into his chest to let the pressure out.
As the nurse worked to stabilize him as best he could, a helicopter arrived, and a nearby hospital was given a “red trauma” alert, which is the maximum level of trauma.
While he was there, metal screws were inserted in his chest to rebuild his ribs, some were also placed in his shin where he had a spiral break, metal plates were put in his face to fix his fractured eye socket, and his broken jaw was held together with rubber bands and more screws.
His sister said that at one point while he was in the hospital, he would just cover his head with a blanket and cry from the pain, but still, she described him as “Stubborn as s—, not gonna let anything take him down.”
Renner agreed, saying that he was “mentally tough” because of the teachings of his mother, who stayed by his bedside and read a Stephen King novel to him. As for what specifically got him through the horrific experience, he said, “Just belief, man.”
“I’ve lost a lot of flesh and bone in this experience, but I’ve been refueled and refilled with love and titanium.”
That is not to say that things have been easy for him – he was shown in the interview doing physical therapy that Sawyer said lasted for hours daily and was painful throughout, and he also had to take a break at one point during their conversation, telling her, “It’s just hard to talk, I’m always relearning, I’m learning to speak again with this broken jaw.”
He took a break later as well, appearing to be lost in thought. When she asked him what he was thinking, he replied, “I’m triggered by the accident. Last night I didn’t sleep for s— knowing I was going to have to talk about it today …”
“I have no regrets,” he insisted. “I’d do it again … I refuse to have that be a trauma and it be a negative experience.”
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While his family surrounded him after the accident and throughout his recovery, there was one person that he did not want to see until he healed a bit: his 10-year-old daughter, Ava.
When Sawyer brought her up, Renner became extremely emotional. She asked what Ava said to him when she was finally able to see him, and he answered, “She didn’t have to say anything. She said she’s scared, she said she loved me.”
Despite all the pain he suffered and continues to suffer, he seemed intent on finding the bright side in this traumatic ordeal.
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“I’ve lost a lot of flesh and bone in this experience,” he said at the end of the interview, “but I’ve been refueled and refilled with love and titanium.”