Sarah Frei was hit by a drunk driver and eventually had to have both legs amputated, but she hasn’t let it slow her down.
Sarah Frei was riding home from Bear Lake in Utah with three of her friends on July 30, 2020 when their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
The teen, who was 17 at the time of the accident, sustained the worst injuries in the group.
Sarah suffered paralysis below the waist, injuries to her spine, a broken ankle and wounds on her face. She has undergone 20 surgeries and eventually had both her legs amputated.
Her father, Greg Frei, told local news station KSL that his daughter constantly worried and asked her parents if she would ever be able to do the things she loved again.
A member of her high school’s cheerleading, golf and swim teams, Sarah was released from the hospital less than three months after the crash and was back cheering with her team from her wheelchair for the remainder of the season. She even choreographed a new routine while in her hospital bed.
“Relearning how to do everything that used to be so normal was pretty difficult, that was probably the hardest time of it all,” she told ABC4.
But nearly two years later, Sarah has completed her first year at Utah State University, where she is studying to be an elementary school teacher and has just returned from a European vacation.
“We didn’t know if she would be able to do anything ever again, it just seemed so devastating, the loss of her legs, and paralyzed as well, but to see her relearning and getting strong so quickly after her accident was amazing,” her mother, Amy Frei, told ABC4.
Sarah posts photos and videos of her travels and adventures to her 87,000 Instagram followers. Her page is filled with photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, wake-boarding, golfing, riding a motorcycle and even skydiving.
“I didn’t think I would be so independent this soon after the accident. I thought I would need help from my parents for a really long time,” Sarah said.
Sarah even has her own car that she can drive herself. The car was given to her by Chevy and country music star Russell Dickerson. Sarah choreographed her cheer routine to Dickerson’s song “Home Sweet” while bedridden.
The musician learned of Sarah’s story and surprised her with the accessible car, a Chevrolet Traverse, and an invite to join him on the red carpet at the 2021 Country Music Awards.
“I cannot express how grateful I am right now. I know that God is so good, and he has sent angels to help me and to bless my life. Russell Dickerson is definitely one of those angels,” the excited fan said.
The Frei family has remained optimistic since the horrific accident and has been focusing on advocating against drunk driving. In response to the accident that forever changed the Frei family, Utah signed Sarah’s Bill (H.B. 47) into law at the end of 2021.
Dustin Wesley Andersen, 45, eventually pleaded guilty to driving his Dodge truck into Sarah and her friends while drunk but was able to post the $500 bail just a few hours after the accident.
Sarah’s Bill wouldn’t let that happen again; the law aims to deny bail to those arrested due to a drunk-driving incident that results in injury.
Andersen reached a plea deal with prosecutors on four counts of DUI, a third-degree felony and reckless driving, a misdemeanor and was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison in April 2021.
“I was blind to the reality of what my drinking could do and I never thought I could hurt anyone,” he told the court at his sentencing.
Sarah was hurt physically, but her spirit continues to shine. “I was a little nervous because I knew how much I used to be able to do and was just hoping I could still do some of those things,” she wrote on Instagram sharing a video of her wake-boarding on Lake Powell. “Turns out I can do everything I used to!!”