Coalville man recovering from leg amputation credited with saving woman
October 21, 2016
A Coalville man who is being hailed as a hero will spend his 28th birthday at the University of Utah Hospital this week while he recovers from having his leg amputated.
Keenan Pearson, who is 27 years old, was injured in a multiple-vehicle accident on Oct. 6 on Interstate 80 near Parley's Canyon when he reportedly saved a woman from being hit by an out-of-control vehicle. According to the Utah Highway Patrol, the roads were partially covered with ice and snow that night.
At around midnight, Pearson was driving home from his job as an assistant manager at Habit Burger when his car hit a 2016 Hyundai Elantra that struck the concrete barrier. The impact caused Pearson's air bags to deploy.
"I was so scared that I had hurt someone or killed someone," Pearson said in an interview with The Park Record from his hospital bed on Wednesday. "I got of my car and just wanted to make sure they were alright."
Pearson said he and the other driver, a 57-year-old woman from California, were attempting to move her car away from oncoming traffic when he heard tires screeching toward them. He was immediately struck by a 2007 Mazda 3, causing significant injuries to his legs.
"I don't remember the collision at all. I do remember pushing her out of the way, though, because I still had the same thought in my head that I can't live with someone getting killed or something if we can avoid it," Pearson said. "I didn't really black out because I remember her picking herself up off the asphalt and saying, 'You saved my bleeping life. I can't believe you saved my bleeping life."
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'Chop it off'
University of Utah Hospital staffers called Pearson's wife, Rebecka, at around 3:37 a.m. to notify her of her husband's accident. Rebecka was at home with the couple's two young children. They had moved to Coalville from the Heber Valley last year.
"My first thought was 'Is he alive?' And then they proceeded to tell me that he was, but his right leg was badly injured and that his leg may need to be amputated and he OK'd it," Rebecka said. "I told them to make sure you do everything you can to save it. They called me back like 20 minutes later and said they looked at it, but it would require so many surgeries and transplants to save it.
"So I told them if he was OK with it then I'm OK with it so chop it off," she said.
Rebecka said the first thing her husband asked about when the anesthesia wore off was the woman he shoved on the highway, who did not sustain any injuries related to the accident. It took Rebecka nearly a day to learn the details surrounding her husband's accident.
"Honestly, when I found that out I was like 'is there any way I could love someone even more?'" Rebecka said. "It was a really intense emotion because I was upset with him at first when I thought he got out of the car because he's never gotten out before when someone was pulled over.
"But we are LDS and we strongly believed she still needs to be here," she said. "We both are like it happens for a reason and there is probably a reason why this happened."
Road to recovery
Pearson will remain hospitalized for a few more weeks while he undergoes additional surgeries to save his left leg, Rebecka said. Her sister set up a GoFundMe page to help support the family while Pearson is out of work. The couple have two children – ages 11 months and 2.
"We don't ask for money. That's not who we are," Rebecka said. "We'll give money to people. But we are not the ones who ask for it. It is really weird, but I'm trying to learn how to accept the help."
As of Thursday, donations exceeded $14,000 and continued to inch toward the $30,000 goal.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Harley Watkins said all three drivers involved in the accident were likely driving too fast for the weather conditions.
"The speed limits should always be followed. They are not a suggestion," Watkins said. "Any time it is late at night or weather conditions are poor, we've always got to allow five extra minutes to get home safely.
"And then if you are involved in a collision and have no other alternatives, get to the other side of the barrier. But don't stand out in the roadway in the travel lane where people are driving," he said.
Watkins said no citations were issued to the drivers, adding "I'm grateful the injuries weren't worse." However, the Summit County Attorney's Office will review the charges.
"That's the best thing: everyone survived," Watkins said. "The injuries were pretty bad and they certainly could've been a lot worse. My suggestion for everyone is let's avoid the heartache and pain that comes through the poor decision making and let's just take our time. We have all day to do it right the first time."
Since the accident, Pearson's hospital room has been full of visitors, including the woman he saved.
"She is the nicest person in the world. The entire time she kept telling me how grateful she was and how appreciative she was for what I did," Pearson said. "But I didn't have time to second guess myself when it happened. At this point, though, she has just strengthened my resolve that I would do it again. I wouldn't go back on that in an instant."
Pearson said the financial and emotional support his family has received has been overwhelming. He said it has given him a more positive outlook on his situation.
"It's been amazing, but people are calling me a hero for pushing her out of the way. I don't really think what I did was that big of a deal," Pearson said. "There are people who do these things and perform everyday acts of heroism all the time. I just pushed someone out of the way of a car in a split-second decision."
To visit the family's Go FundMe page, go to https://www.gofundme.com/2t3bww64.