It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since former Bachelor Chris Soules was involved in a fatal accident near his Iowa farm and now, the 37-year-old is opening up for the first time about the incident and its painful aftermath.
“The trauma of being involved in [the accident] is something I cannot describe,” Soules, 37, tells PEOPLE exclusively of mourning the death of 66-year-old Kenny Mosher, who was killed after his tractor was rear-ended by a truck driven by Soules. “I think about it every day.”
Opening up about what happened on that fateful day is emotional for Soules, as he contended with numerous false stories in the media about the accident, including that he had been drinking, and that he didn’t do everything he could do save Mosher’s life.
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“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could have done more or change the outcome of what happened,” says Soules, who last month received two years of probation for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury. “My outlook on life has changed forever.”
For Soules, who became a household name as the star of The Bachelor in 2015 (his engagement to his pick, Whitney Bischoff, ended after six months), April 24, 2017 began as a normal day.
The farmer worked on a broken down planter, surveyed his property and then, in the evening, set out in his pickup truck to pick up one of his workers from one end of the family’s sprawling farmland and take him to headquarters.
What followed is still a blur. “The next thing you know, I’m coming to inside my pickup,” says Soules, who cannot discuss certain specifics of the incident due to a recent civil settlement with the Mosher family. “I heard a voice [of a man who had witnessed the accident] saying, ‘Call 911.’ ” On the phone with the emergency dispatcher, Soules, who identified himself on the call, walked over to Mosher, who was unconscious, and per the dispatcher’s instructions, began administering CPR.
“I was giving chest compressions and continued to do CPR until eventually I spat out [Mosher’s] blood,” says Soules. “He coughed up blood in my mouth. At that point I thought it didn’t seem to be doing a lot of good. I was scared. And I remember thinking he might not make it.” When the paramedics arrived, “I remember praying [that he would be okay].”
What happened next became a major sticking point, both legally and in the court of public opinion. Soules got into a different truck, one that had been driven to the accident site by one of his workers, and drove himself home.
“I was out of my mind,” says Soules. “I felt like I did everything in my power when I was there and I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know anything. I just knew it was really bad and I was scared.”
Upon the advice of his parents, whom he called on the way home, Soules phoned an attorney, who instructed him not to talk to police until the attorney was present.
“I just followed his instructions,” says Soules. “And I wasn’t expecting police at my door. In hindsight, I was charged with a crime. But I really didn’t know that there were grounds for arrest at that point.”
Ultimately, Soules was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality, a felony; that charge was eventually amended to leaving the scene of an accident causing serious injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. Court records pointed to Soules purchasing beer earlier on the day of the accident and to partially consumed containers of alcohol in the vehicle he was driving, but Soules explains that he often buys food and drink for his many hired hands, and that the truck was used by any and all of his 15-plus employees. Three witnesses on the scene in close proximity to Soules testified under oath that they did not detect any alcohol on him, and a blood test administered six hours after the accident registered a 0.0.
Back at home, Soules, whose terms of release from his initial court appearance included a 24-hour ankle monitoring bracelet and an 11 p.m. curfew, was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the accident.
“I saw some dark times,” he says. “I’m in the middle of nowhere as it is and I was even deeper in the isolation and the guilt. I thought many times that it would have been easier on the other side.”
But eventually, with the help of family and friends, Soules has been able to look toward the future, and hopes that, now that the legal chapter of the accident is closed, he can come together with the Mosher family to mourn the loss of their husband and father.
“I’ll live with [what happened] forever,” says Soules. “But I will carry on, and as a result of the tragedy, do something bigger and better with my life.”