Brianna Hatch never imagined that a horrific accident would end up changing her life in a positive way.
Hatch is the captain of the BYU figure skating team and hopes to compete in the Olympics someday. She is a former three-time U.S. Figure Skating Junior National and U.S. Young International team member. Hatch began competing with the BYU figure skating team in 2008. She also teaches figure skating for both BYU and UVU.
On the day her life changed drastically, Hatch found a new and unlikely friend in Utah Blaze wide receiver Aaron Lesué, who holds the Arena Football League’s record for most touchdowns scored in a single season.
Neither athlete could foresee the drastic events that would result in a new friendship.
On April 24, Hatch was driving to Provo when a car entered her lane near Lehi, causing her to lose control of her vehicle at 70 mph. Her car struck a barrier and rolled three times and then struck another barrier before landing upside down and catching fire.
“All I can remember is, when I hit the first barrier I felt a very strong and clear voice in my head that was almost peaceful, saying, ‘Go limp,'” Hatch recalls. “So I relaxed my body and let go of clenching onto the steering wheel, and I believe that is what kept me from getting worse injuries than I did.
“I was hanging upside down for literally, I don’t know, two, three minutes; it wasn’t very long at all,” Hatch added. “A young BYU couple had stopped, and the husband got out of his car and he got to me first, and then Aaron came onto the scene.”
Lesué was returning home from practice that day when he witnessed the accident just before his exit.
“It was one of those moments where I felt like I needed to stop and help,” Lesué said. “You feel like something’s telling you to stop and help. My mom kind of raised me that way, to help others when you can.”
When Lesué got to the car, he noticed that with the wind blowing south into the car Hatch was having a hard time breathing. After extinguishing the car’s engine fire, Lesué and two other men were able to unhook Hatch’s seatbelt and carry her a safe distance from the car. It was here that Hatch found comfort in Lesué’s presence.
“She reached up and grabbed my hand, and I was kind of holding her hand until the paramedics got there,” Lesué said. “For me, I was pretty flustered. … When she reached up and grabbed my hand I knew she would be OK.”
In an interview with ESPN Radio, Lesué expressed how he couldn’t get Hatch off his mind for the next few hours. Through some investigation he was able to find out who she was and sent her a message over Facebook.
“Aaron messaged me … reaching out to me and finding out if I remembered him or anything. It was very sweet, and we have been in contact ever since,” Hatch said.
Hatch sustained injuries to her shoulders, ribs, clavicle and head and was put on bed rest for three weeks. The recovery has been slower than expected, but Hatch has gradually been able to make it back to her home on the ice.
“I cried the first day I got back on (the ice) because I was so excited to be back,” Hatch said.
When she had recovered enough to enjoy more of her regular daily activities, Lesué invited Hatch to watch the Blaze take on the Spokane Shock. After Lesué recorded his second touchdown, he ran the length of the field to hand the ball to Hatch, who was sitting on the second row in the opposite end zone.
“I was pretty winded at the time because I ran all the way across the field,” Lesué said of the experience. “I just wanted to do something special and give that to her as a reminder. She’s been pretty inspirational in the way she has been able to bounce back from all that.”
Hatch’s younger sister and figure skating teammate, Cosette, has been grateful for the friendship that has developed between Brianna Hatch and Lesué. Cosette Hatch was able to attend one of Lesué’s games with her sister.
“I only met (Lesué) for a brief moment, but I could see their interaction,” she said. “We were sitting in the second row so, you know, when he was kind of running past, he would wave or they would make funny faces at each other when he was off. He’s super awesome to her. It’s a really good friendship.”
The friendship between Brianna Hatch and Lesué was formed under very unique circumstances, and their story goes to show what amazing things can happen when a group of strangers comes together to lend a helping hand.
“When people come together in an emergency, it’s just proof that there’s a God, that people can love like that,” Cosette Hatch said. “I’m super grateful … that people can be so good.”
Brianna Hatch attributes her ability to recover so quickly to those who helped her during the accident.
“(The accident) has definitely given me a huge perspective on things, that life is precious and that you never know what’s going to happen today or tomorrow,” Brianna said. “I know that it’s all thanks to the people that were there. I’m just grateful to be alive.”