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Film Writers Narrowly Escape Tragedy in Sundance Accident

Film Writers Narrowly Escape Tragedy in Sundance Accident

The first year I went to Sundance, I made the mistake of staying in Salt Lake City, which meant a sometimes treacherous drive up and down the mountain every day to Park City each day. So when Twitch writers Ben Umstead, Jeremy Harris, and Zach Gayne posted that they’d skidded off the road in their drive home from this year’s festival, I felt like I knew just how it just how it happened. And when they asked for help to cover their unexpected medical bills due to being underinsured — well, far too many Americans can relate to that.

As Twitch’s Todd Brown writes on their GoFundMe page:

On Monday, February 1, while returning home from the Sundance Film Festival, freelance writers Ben Umstead, Jeremy Harris and Zach Gayne narrowly avoided tragedy in a terrible car accident. They’re all still standing — some a little more wobbly than others — but all three are left with significant injuries and hospital bills while far away from home.

Choosing to drive from the festival in Utah to save costs, the trio hit a patch of ice on the road and slid into the ditch. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, really, except for the car behind them that did the same thing — and crashed directly into them at the side of the road. 

Harris was still in the car at impact and suffered a concussion and other injuries, requiring stitches. Gayne, who was out of the car, avoided breaking any bones but his leg was badly injured. And Umstead? Well, Ben now has a fractured T8 vertebra in his back, a broken forearm and a shattered collarbone that will require surgery within the next two weeks. 

The car? That’s a write off.

The consequences of the accident vary for each of them. Gayne is going to head back to Canada, where he’ll be taken care of through their medical system. Harris and Umstead, though, are significantly under insured and both need help to cover their existing medical bills plus future physiotherapy. 

And all three need help just to get back home.

Money can’t buy happiness, that’s true. It can, however, pay for medically administered morpheine, surgery, ongoing therapy and costs to travel back to family and loved ones who can take care of the trio while they recover. 

Let’s make sure they don’t have to worry about finances while they’re getting better.

Their campaign is off to a good start, with nearly $10,000 of the requested $15,000 collected in the first 16 hours. But that’s $10K Canadian dollars, or a little over $7,000 in U.S., which is where Bumstead and Harris’s bills need to be paid. Covering Sundance is a razor-thin proposition for freelance writers to begin with, and adding a totaled car and physical injuries on top only makes it harder. If you’ve enjoyed their writing or Twitch’s coverage, or just want to help out some cinephiles in need, kick in a few bucks, won’t you?

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