Five Days Apart: How Two Neighbors Bonded Over Life-Changing Injuries

May 25, 2021, 12:51 PM

SYRACUSE, Utah — After a career that spanned decades in the FBI, Kirk Francis found himself picking up new hobbies during his retirement. The father and grandfather always wanted a motorcycle, but his wife never allowed it while their children lived at home.

“It took some convincing to get the bike,” he said after his wife, Dalene Francis, finally gave him that green light.

His love for riding grew after each road trip he went on, many of them with his neighbor from down the street, Greg Frei.

One July day last summer, the two went with a group for a quick ride in Salt Lake City. Kirk Francis took a tumble at an intersection, but dusted himself off and did what he always did — kept riding.

“I knew something was off. He wasn’t riding like himself,” Frei said.

Frei believes Francis might’ve gotten a concussion at that intersection tumble, but that wasn’t the end of it.

“I just will never forget that the sites and the sounds — they were horrible,” Frei said.

While riding on Interstate 15 in Layton, Francis didn’t see a semi-truck slam on its brakes in front of him, and he hit the back of the trailer.

Frei and the rest of the group pulled over as fast as they could.

“The sounds of his bike hitting the semi, and I can still hear the cars screeching, praying that he doesn’t get run over,” Frei said.

Frei performed CPR on his friend until paramedics arrived. Francis was taken to the hospital and eventually flown by helicopter to a Trauma 1 hospital in Salt Lake City.

“I really truly think that had it not been for his efforts that I wouldn’t be alive today,” Francis said about Frei.

Francis had an angel looking over him that day, and one riding next to him. But a grim diagnosis came his way a few days later when he found out he was paralyzed from the neck down.

“I try not to focus on what I can’t do but what I can do,” Francis said with a smile.

He survived a crash that most people wouldn’t have, according to his doctors. A traumatic event that unfortunately was followed by another crash that would impact Frei’s life.

“There accidents were five days apart, so it’s still very heavy on my mind,” Frei said.

Less than after week Frei witnessed his friend’s crash, his youngest daughter was in a car that was hit by a drunk driver. Sarah Frei ended up having to have her legs amputated from the crash.

“My focus since July has been on Sarah,” Greg Frei said.

As his daughter recovered, she began rehabilitation at the University of Utah, where a few doors down she ran into her neighbor.

“(Francis’) eyes got all watery when he first saw me,” Sarah Frei said.

Recovering from traumatic injuries isn’t an easy feat, and it bears heavily on many people. Francis tried to keep his spirits up, and Frei helped him.

“She is always smiling,” he said. “It just shines through.”

The two families that lived four doors down from each other for 20 years never thought they’d come together through such tragedies. Through their trials, they were able to lean on one another for support.

“I think that’s where I get a lot of strength is from these good people,” Dalene Francis said.

Kirk Francis was grateful for his family, and the Freis — who have grown to become part of it.

“Realizing how fragile life can be and realizing how good people truly are when they see you’re in need,” Francis said.

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Five Days Apart: How Two Neighbors Bonded Over Life-Changing Injuries