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SANDY – It was supposed to be a hiking and fishing trip to celebrate the end of a successful school year.
The Jackson family, of Richmond, Cache County, were on US 30 in Wyoming near Kemmerer when a vehicle traveling in the opposite lane stopped in front of them as they attempted to overtake a semi -trailer.
“We saw her go out to get past the semi, I would say we probably had a few seconds. Trevor hit the brakes, fishtail, and then there was impact from there,” said recalled Seantae Jackson on Thursday.
The two vehicles collided head-on.
“It’s like you hit a brick wall at about 130 mph. After the force of the impact we all passed out. And since I was driving the engine was pushed into my lap and I was instantly trapped inside the vehicle and the vehicle caught fire twice,” said Trevor Jackson.
Both of Jackson’s femurs were broken, his sternum was cracked, and the ACL and MCL of his left knee were torn. His wife, Seantae, suffered a dislocated arm, injured elbow, torn muscles in her left shoulder and bruised lungs.
Their twin sons, Owen and Cameron, 15, were also injured. Owen suffered the worst injuries, suffering a severe, life-threatening brain injury that left him in a medically induced coma for nine days. The family says for a time they were unsure if Owen would survive.
“The future was very bleak,” said Trevor Jackson.
Another woman, a family friend who was traveling with them, also suffered a broken femur and internal bleeding.
A 55-year-old woman driving the vehicle that hit the Jacksons was killed.
This accident took place on July 14, 2021. On Thursday, the Jackson family stood side by side at a Zero Fatality press conference hosted by the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Transportation to remind drivers to be safe on the road as they head into Labor Day weekend.
UHP Col. Michael Rapich said he was happy to have the Jackson family there.
“For 215 people already this year, that’s not the case,” he said.
215 people have been killed on Utah roads so far this year on Thursday, including 94 during the so-called ‘100 deadliest days of summer’, the period between Memorial Day and the holiday work.
Utah is on the verge of setting a new record for people killed on the road in a single year, Rapich said, breaking previous records set last year.
“It’s not a problem we can get out of,” he said while imploring drivers to do their part.
Excessive speed, impaired driving, distracted driving and even a decrease in seat belt use all contributed to the high numbers, according to the UHP and UDOT. Soldiers have written more than 4,600 speeding citations in 2021. As of Thursday, they have already issued 4,300 this year, Rapich said.
He pleaded with the public to stop being aggressive behind the wheel and to stop accelerating.
“Don’t make driving a competition. Remember, it’s not just you, it’s everyone,” he said.
To highlight the dangers of aggressive driving, state officials invited the Jackson family to speak at their event.
Trevor and Seantae Jackson have been married for 17 years and have five children, including two sets of twins. They like to spend time outdoors. Last summer, as a reward for Owen and Cameron getting good grades in school, they went on a backpacking adventure.
It was then that they were hit.
“Our lives have been forever changed because of this accident. It has been and continues to be a long road to recovery for our family,” Seantae Jackson said. “One action changed our lives forever. We will never have the life we had before this accident and the impact it had on our family will leave us forever changed.”
But despite the difficult situation they found themselves in, the couple and their friend decided right away that they were going to turn this horrific event into a way to help others.
“We all immediately felt that we wanted to help someone else in some way. We all had different ideas of what it would be like, but it was really immediate. Owen was still in a coma when we all said, ‘We have to help other people,’ Seantae Jackson said.
The Jacksons created the Sandal Blue Foundation. Their nonprofit’s namesake comes from the name doctors placed on Trevor Jackson’s bracelet when he was first admitted to the emergency room and his real name was unknown. John Doe’s name stuck around for several days while Jackson was in the hospital. The family have since adopted the name, although they say the sandals he wore that day were brown.
The Sandal Blue Foundation’s goal is to help other crash survivors and their families. The Jacksons also speak regularly across the state, encouraging people to drive safely.
Despite their seemingly incredible recovery, the Jackson family say they still face tough times.
“Our whole life has been trying to get better. So that’s a lot of hours every day of physical therapy and things like that trying to get range of motion back and strength and all those things,” Seantae Jackson said, who had a physical therapy appointment scheduled right after the press conference.
The family still goes through numerous doctor’s appointments, therapy and counselling. She has just returned to work after more than a year and her husband has yet to return to work. Although he can’t run and still has trouble with stairs, Trevor Jackson – who was training for a marathon when the accident happened – can stand on his own, which he has said his doctors were amazed.
Despite the long road to recovery, the Jacksons say they did their best to turn lemons into lemonade.
“There are a lot of really tough days. So we just try to do the best we can. When we have a tough day, we let it go. And then we feel like when we can make lemonade, we try, otherwise we just taste sour. We do a bit of both,” Seantae Jackson said.