Jeremy Renner Considered End-of-Life Decisions After Snowplow Accident: “Don’t Let Me Live on Tubes on a Machine”
April 7, 2023 01:00 PM NPT
Jeremy Renner said he believed he was going to die and will now live with metal in his ribcage and plates in his face following his near-deadly snowplow accident,according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter.
The Mayor of Kingstown and Hawkeye actor spoke with the ABC News anchor for Jeremy Renner: The Diane Sawyer Interview – A Story of Terror, Survival and Triumph, airing Thursday night. The sitdown served as his first discussion about the harrowing New Year’s snowplow accident, which left him with more than 30 broken bones after he was pulled under a 14,300-pound snowcat on Jan. 1.
In a report from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, it was revealed that Renner sustained severe injuries as a result of trying to prevent his nephew, Alex Fries, from getting run over by his personal PistenBully after it began to slide in the snow when the break was not properly set. Renner, who said he was awake for the entire painful experience, told Sawyer that he had “lost a lot of flesh and bone in this experience,” with injuries so extensive he was convinced he was going to die.
“If I was there on my own, that would have been a horrible way to die, and surely I would have. Surely,” he said of his life-threatening injuries. “Surely, but I wasn’t alone. I was with my nephew, sweet Alex.”
Renner admitted that he had even considered end-of-life decisions with his family and kept his daughter from seeing him right after the accident. “Don’t let me live on tubes on a machine,” Renner said of a conversation with his family. “If my existence is going to be on drugs and painkillers, let me go now.”
Renner was not the only one who thought he was going to die. “At one point I was holding his head — I wouldn’t take my eyes off of him because I didn’t want him to drift off,” Barb Fletcher, Renner’s neighbor and one of the first to come to his aid, told Sawyer. “And at one point, he just got a clammy feel to him and he turned this gray-green color. And I feel in my heart like I lost him for a second. He closed his eyes. I really do feel like he passed away for a few seconds.”
“It was the blood, the amount of blood, he was just in so much pain and the sounds that were coming out of him,” said Richard Kovatch, Renner’s neighbor and Fletcher’s partner, who noted the actor was in a “dire” state when he was found. “There was so much blood in the snow, and then when I looked at his head it appeared to me to be cracked wide open, and I could see white. I don’t know if that was his skull, maybe it was just my imagination, but that’s what I thought I saw.”
Renner’s ribcage has been rebuilt with metal which will stay there for life, along with metal plates in his face to support his eyesocket and titanium rods in one of his legs. His jaw is being held together, according to the actor, with rubber bands and screws. “Jeremy in pain, wide awake. He was delirious, he was just miserable,” his sister, Kim Renner, recalled of his time around the surgeries. “It hurt. He cried from misery just because he couldn’t sleep.”
“This whole side of my body, I don’t really feel sensitivity to touch, but it’ll grow. I can feel it, the change already in two months,” he said noting he also doesn’t have feeling in his face, though his vision is fine. “I feel hardly any of my teeth on the upper part because they went inside my face to put in two plates because of an orbital crack.”
“They put screws in my skull and my jaw to hold it with rubber bands,” he added noting his pain. “I’m learning to speak again.”
Renner said he is still triggered by the event and lost sleep over preparing for the interview, but he’d do it again. “I refuse to have that be a trauma and be a negative experience,” he said. “That is a moment I’m proud of because I wouldn’t let that happen to my nephew. I shift the narrative of being victimized or making a mistake or anything else. I refused to be fucking haunted by that memory in that way.”
But he does take on responsibility for what ultimately happened. “So I’m writing down notes on my phone, last words to my family,” Renner told Sawyer about his belief he was going to die while in the hospital, evening using ASL to apologize to his family. “I signed because I am. I’m sorry. I did that to them. That’s my responsibility. No, I feel bad that my actions caused so much pain.”
The first half of the nearly hour-long sitdown showed Renner recounting moment-by-moment what happened while he was attempting to remove snow from his property following a severe weather event that left around three feet of accumulation in the Mt. Rose Highway area of Nevada.
During his conversation with Sawyer, he and his nephew Alex Fries revealed the actor asked Fries to help him remove snow from his property where he had invited his extended family to stay for the New Year’s holidays. “Everybody’s getting dressed to go skiing out there, and then my nephew came out to help me because a lot of things are getting stuck,” Renner recalled of heading out to use the snowcat, a machine he said is a necessity to get to his home due to the mountainous and snowy conditions of the area.
Renner was pulling one of the family vehicles with the snowcat out of the driveway and onto the street when the accident occurred. Fries had just unattached a chain connecting the front of the truck to the back of the snowcat, “to finish off the last two or three yards of the driveway to get it onto the paved area,” Renner explained. The actor turned the snowplow, which began sliding but had difficulty seeing his nephew.
Renner opened the door and leaned outside of the vehicle’s cab to get Fries in his line of sight but without putting the snowcat’s break on. “I just happen to be the dummy standing on the dang track a little bit seeing if my nephew’s there,” he said. “I should be inside the vehicle when you’re operating. It’s kind of like driving a car with your foot outside the car, you know what I mean? But yeah, it was what it was. It’s my mistake. And I paid for it.”
The vehicle continue to roll forward, and he fell off the side of the machine where he could see Alex was “sandwiched” between them. Renner attempted to jump back inside the machine to “disengage it,” landing on the snowcat’s track before being hurtled in front of it as he recalled screaming, “Not today, motherfucker.”
The actor admitted he doesn’t remember much more than being face down, able to see one of his eyes out of his socket with the other and feeling his toes, ankles, legs and then chest being crushed. “It’s exactly like you imagined it would feel,” he told Sawyer of being run over by the snowcat on icy asphalt. “I wish it was on snow. It felt like someone took the wind out of me. Too many things are going on in the body to feel pain. It’s everything. It’s like if your soul could have pain.”
Fries — after being nearly pinned in the truck after he jumped inside it to avoid the still sliding snowcat — ran over to Renner but “didn’t think he was alive.” He then looked for nearby help and saw the garage door of Kovatch open.
“I actually had to ask his nephew, ‘Was that Jeremy?’ because of how he had looked,” Kovatch said, noting how unrecognizable Renner was due to his injuries when he saw him. “So steadily and for such a long time [he was] trying to breathe, and it looked like he just gave up.”
During a Jan. 3 media event, authorities shared that the emergency responders — who came from the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and REMSA Health — had difficulty reaching Renner, with the fire department arriving 21 minutes after the emergency call, followed by the North Lake Tahoe ambulance whose nurse would insert needles in Renner’s chest to keep him breathing. The special briefly details how they had to reach him from opposite sides of the mountain, where conditions were so bad, a firefighter fell and fractured his leg while trying to reach Renner.
At the hospital, Renner was categorized as a level red trauma case — the highest you can go. Initial reports indicated that the actor and producer was hospitalized in critical but stable condition following the accident before it was revealed a day later that he had undergone surgery after experiencing blunt chest trauma and orthopedic injuries. He says he was intubated and treated for a broken face and eye socket, eight ribs broken in 14 places, a broken right knee, left tibia, clavicle, right shoulder and ankles, along with a punctured lung and a major head laceration.
On Jan. 3, just two days after the incident — and the same day the local sheriff’s department held a press conference clarifying details around what Sheriff Darin Balaam called a “tragic accident” — Renner posted his first public statement while still hospitalized. The Rennervations star continued to provide updates on his hospitalization, including a video from his bed. He spent several weeks in the hospital, even celebrating his 52nd birthday there, before revealing in an Instagram Story on Jan. 19 that he had been released from the hospital.
From there, the Avengers star began documenting his at-home journey to recovery. That includes the use of an anti-gravity treadmill, strengthening exercises and electric stimulation workouts. During the special, Renner — who had been recording in his L.A. home — said that when he looks in the mirror, he not only “sees a lucky man” but that he’s “been refueled and refilled with love and titanium,” with hopes to be walking on the Rennervations red carpet.