Leslee's miraculous recovery after a fatal text message

- ST GEORGE (ABC 4 Utah) - Leslee Henson was out walking with her husband David two years ago when tragedy struck. It would be their last time together.

"My husband died shortly after the impact," she said.

A woman who was texting hit another car that slammed into David and Leslee on Dixie Drive in St. George.

"She was driving distracted. She ended up rear-ending a vehicle and pushed that car into us," Henson explained.

The father of three and grandfather of 12 died on the way to the hospital. David was 57 and had retired from Provo City Power.The couple had moved down to St. George to enjoy the year-round warmth and live near their grandchildren.

Photos taken minutes after the crash show Leslee's  gruesome injuries. She was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center and life-flighted to Utah Valley Medical Center.

Leslee suffered a broken neck, fractured her lower back and needed more than 5,000 stitches.

"It's actually there in the hospital that I was informed that the accident was caused by a person that was texting," Henson said.

The driver, Carla Brennan, 52, was charged with automobile homicide, which is a second degree felony. She plead not guilty and the hearing is set to take place in July.

Leslee's daughter, Haley Warner, explained the shock the family had felt when they heard their father died due to a text message.

"All that kept going through my head was 'because of a text. because of a text. Because she was late to work and sent a text and it's just so sad. That's really the reason why my dad's not here and my kids don't have a grandpa. They lived around the corner from us and we saw him everyday. Because of a text. It's not fair," Warner told ABC4's Tasmin Mahfuz.

According to the Utah Department of Transportation's 'Zero Fatalities' campaign, 256 lives were lost on Utah roads in 2014. 37 were pedestrian deaths, 165 motorist crashes, 45 motorcycle fatalities and 9 bicyclist deaths.

UDOT's Region 4 Communication Manager, Kevin Kitchen, said they would like Utahns to set a goal for zero road fatalities.

"Some people think it's not realistic but when we ask the question from a different perspective - if it's a member of your family, would one fatality be acceptable? Then obviously people said no, it's not acceptable," Kitchen said.

UDOT would like people to learn more about the major five deadly driving behaviors: distracted driving, drowsiness, aggressive driving, alcohol impaired driving and not buckling your seatbelt.

UDOT found that in 2014, 72 deaths were for not wearing a seatbelt; 70 deaths were due to alcohol or drug impaired driving; 68 deaths from aggressive driving; 22 people died from distracted driving and 6 people for drowsy driving.

"Losing a spouse is a tremendous loss. Not only for me but for my children and my grandchildren. He was an incredibly active husband, very active father and very active grandfather," Henson said.

Leslee now leads distracted driving awareness campaigns across Utah. She was successful in passing a law that made texting while driving illegal.

"People think they can do it and they get away with it until they get pulled over or cause an accident, or someone hits them," said Henson.

A new effort on Utah’s Capitol Hill that would ease up on phone use while driving restrictions has Leslee concerned.

Lehi Rep. Jacob Anderegg has sponsored a bill, titled HB63, that would allow drivers to make or receive a voice message, phone call, listen to music and use voice commands.

"I wonder if these lawmen are thinking about their children. Do they have teenagers that are driving?" she said.

Warner said the incident could have happened to anyone.

"You never think it's going to happen to you and it does. It happens everyday. 9 people are killed everyday and you don't ever think it'll happen. You don't think it will and then one day you wake your kids are in the tub and you get a phone call from the hospital that says your parents got hit by a car and you go and you walk into a room and you have to identify your father who was just hit by a car and then see your mother in the room next door half of her head ripped off because of a text," said Warner.

The accident took seconds to happen. Leslee and Haley's goal is to make Utah "hands-free” for people behind the wheel. They want distracted drivers to change their behavior before another tragedy strikes again.

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