Bear River student-athlete survives vicious car crash

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:49 PM

Ryan Comer, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

PENROSE — Bear River star senior soccer player Tanner Porter couldn’t have known what was about to happen to him on his way home from the 4-A boys basketball playoffs at the Huntsman Center on Mar. 5, but he told his 14-year-old brother not to ride with him.

Not even two hours later, they were both very likely alive because of it.

Porter, 18, was driving east on Highway 102 about a mile from his home around 9:30 p.m. when suddenly a deer raced out in front of him. Thinking that with a minor steering correction he could avoid the tail end of the deer as it darted across, Porter accidentally steered off the road and into the ditch. After about 200 yards of driving through fencing and traffic signs in the ditch, Porter accelerated back onto the road, jumped two lanes of traffic and rolled the 1997 Ford Explorer he was driving twice.

Somewhere between entering the ditch and rolling the vehicle, Porter’s memory is a blank. He doesn’t believe he lost consciousness, but that perhaps his body was just reacting to the sudden spike in adrenaline.

As Porter continued coming out of his daze after his vehicle had stopped, he remembers seeing his father, who had been driving about 30 yards ahead of him, already at his vehicle.

“I just remember looking out my passenger window – it wasn’t shattered – and I just saw headlights, and then I look across and my whole front window is shattered, my mirrors are gone and everything I had in my car was all over the road,” Porter said. “And then I saw my dad and some other guys who stopped and you (could) see it in their face. My brother was running; my dad had already got there. He was freaking out because it’s (his) kid and you don’t ever want that to happen ... he was calling my mom and then he called his brother and my grandma and he just started crying, and then that’s when it really hit how bad it was.

“He said that he thought I was dead when he came up because I was kind of slumped over when I was coming to. He said he thought he lost his son.”

Porter wasn’t lost, though. Miraculously, he wasn’t even severely injured. Except for a few minor bumps, cuts and scrapes, as well as some whiplash, Porter was able to be pulled out of the car, stabilized and transported to Bear River Valley Hospital in Tremonton. After arriving at 11 p.m. and passing the CT scan as well as all the other required tests, Porter was released at 3 a.m. – not even six hours after the accident occurred.

For Porter, what really made the gravity of the situation hit home was remembering that he had told his brother to ride home with his dad.

“His backpack was under the passenger seat, and then after the wreck it was about 100 yards down the road from my car,” Porter said. “He saw that and broke down and thought that could be him.”

Porter was fortunate for a lot of reasons that night. Most importantly, he was wearing his seat belt and he wasn’t speeding. Secondly, his father wasn’t far ahead of him. Also, he was on a county road late in the evening, lessening the risk of him being hit by oncoming traffic as he jumped back onto the road. And when the vehicle Tanner was driving finally came to a stop, it was upright.

All that played a factor in Porter’s survival, but spoken as someone preparing to serve an LDS mission, Porter believes there’s more to it.

“A lot of guardian angels around me,” Porter said.

Bear River played its first boys soccer game of the season on Mar. 11, and amazingly, Porter could have played. The Region 11 leader in goals the last two years, Porter might have been the difference in what ultimately turned out to be a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Morgan.

“In fact, (Mar. 11) at the game, he said, ‘Put me in,’” Bear River coach Chad Munns said. “We probably could with the doctor’s note we already had, but we (were) doing what the school (wants) just because he’s had a concussion before. One game is not going to make or break our season, especially in a preseason game. We want him healthy and good to go.”

Porter and his family have taken the good fortune and used it to remember how fragile life can be. Aside from just hitting the deer if he’s in the situation again, which Porter says he’s been told in abundance since, that’s the single biggest lesson learned.

“That’s been the theme of our family lately,” Porter said. “Every family fights and you want to say things carefully. Two hours before that, we were joking around at the basketball game, and the next thing you know, I’m in the ER. Could have been dead.”

Porter’s father, Jeff, echoed that sentiment.

“Whether it’s your wife or your brother, sister, teacher, boss – it ain’t worth being angry over it,” Jeff said. “Walk away. Come back and deal with it because you never know when that person dies.”

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