“I think I’m having an uncomfortable dream.”
That was what flashed through the mind of Utah Highway Patrol trooper Sgt. Cade Brenchley when an out-of-control car sent his body flying into the air on the side of the highway.
Brenchley had gotten out of his car to help out some motorists who’d gotten into a crash. The roads up on Sardine Canyon that day (March 25th, 2018) were sleek with ice and snow. One car had already skidded off the road and a truck had flipped over onto its side.
He checked the traffic before stepping out of his car. As far as he could tell, it was safe. The vehicles were being careful, driving slowly and staying over to the other side. And so Brenchley stepped out of his car and started making his way toward the people he’d come to help, never imagining that, no more than a few yards behind him, another car was swerving out of a control.
Brenchley’s accident became a major new story. Video of the accident spread online, and his miraculous survival was reported in newspapers around the country. But for Brenchley and his wife Lindsay, it was a nightmare, a culmination of something they’d feared from the moment Cade joined the force.
Today, they joined KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic live in the studio and shared their harrowing story.
A police officer’s wife shares her story
Sgt. Cade Brenchley and wife wife, Lindsay, talk to KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic about his accident.Lindsay Brenchley had been dreading the call from the moment her husband joined the force.
“Right when he got hired on, I started having issues,” Lindsay admits. “Usually your logical brain can say, y’know, he’s gonna come home tonight – right? Like, everything’s going to be okay. It usually is.
“Every once in a while, though, that crazy – I just call it my ‘crazy’ – would come out, and wouldn’t be pushed down.”
If she’d gone too long without hearing from Cade, Lindsay would find herself staring out the window, convinced that a patrol car was about to pull into her driveway reporting the worst. Sometimes, she’d even get worried enough to call the dispatchers and beg them, “just let me know. He’s not answered his phone. Is everything okay?”
Things got so bad, Lindsay says, that she ended up getting help from a therapist. For three or four years before Cade’s accident, she had regular therapy appointments, where she struggled to work through the fears and anxieties that filled her while her husband was at work.
“I got to a really good place,” Lindsay says. “And then it came true.”
Her husband had called her just a few moments before the accident. His shift was supposed to be over; she’d been working on their meal, eagerly awaiting for him to come home so that they and their four children could sit down and enjoy a Sunday dinner as a family.
But that dinner was already getting cold. Cade had to put in overtime. Cars had been sliding off of the road, he told his wife, and he needed to make sure they were taken care of. Then he would come right home.
The car that pulled into the driveway, though, wasn’t Cade’s. It was a Logan City Police Officer that Lindsay had never seen before, except, perhaps, in those terrified dreams she’d been having for years.
“Your husband’s been hit,” he told her. “I don’t have many details. He was outside of his car.”
“Everything kind of went fuzzy,” Lindsay recalls. “I left him out on the porch. I shut the door. I feel like I was trying to, like, shut that out for a second.”
Just closing the door, though, couldn’t shut out what had happened. Behind her, her four children – the youngest of them nine years old – were staring at her, waiting to find out what was going on.
“I turned around and I said, ‘Okay, guys. It sounds like Dad’s been hit.’”
Sgt. Cade Brenchley’s struggle for survival
Cade doesn’t remember getting hit. He doesn’t even remember walking to the scene of the crash. All he can remember is the moment he closed his patrol car door, a sudden jolt, and then everything going black.
The impact, he would later learn, broke four of his ribs and his right shoulder blade, and it left him with a torn LCL in his left knee. At the time, though, all he knew was that he couldn’t move, that he was lying on the side of the highway, and that he was gasping for air.
His first thoughts, he says, were of his wife and kids. But shortly after, they turned to someone else: Janica Ellsworth, the widow of his friend Eric Ellsworth, who had died on Nov. 22, 2016.
Eric had died on the line of duty. Like Cade, he was a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who got hit by a car while helping motorists on the road. Eric’s injuries, however, were fatal; after a four day battle in intensive care, he lost his life.
Cade knew how hard it had been on Janica. He’d seen firsthand how an officer’s family struggles when he gives up his life in the line of duty, and the thought of his wife going through that pain broke his heart.
“I thought of her,” Cade says, “and I thought: this is going to be tough.”
When she learned what had happened, Lindsay’s mind went to the same place.
“My first thought, also, was about Janica – just thinking about her and how she dealt with it,” Lindsay says. “Now it was my turn.”
Miraculously, Cade survived. He made a full recovery from his injuries and, today, has been left with no more than a few aches – though he jokes that those aches and pains come to everyone when you turn 40.
For Lindsay, however, the crash opened up a scar that she thought had been healed. After the accident, Lindsay says, the fears came back.
“I went back to that same therapist, and I said: ‘Now what do we do? … Now how do I work through this?’”
Like Lindsay Brenchley, KSL Newsradio’s Debbie Dujanovic spent the better part of her adult life as the wife of a police officer. She, too, visited a therapist to help her struggle with the anxiety that comes with a husband putting his life on the line to keep people safe.
Now, she and Dave Noriega are sharing stories like Lindsay and Cade Brenchley’s as part of their campaign to win fair pay and retirement benefits for Utah’s police.
“This is the life of a police officer. We see it all the time,” Dujanovic says. “And yet, starting pay is $18 an hour.”
Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega invite you to show your support by signing their pledge at #PayOurPolice.
Click the link to pledge your support here to restore police pensions in Utah! Police departments across the state say they are having problems recruiting new officers. Improving their retirement benefits would do a lot to help. Pledge your support now: https://t.co/Ef26kxJBK8
— Dave and Dujanovic (@D2KSL) January 23, 2019