Beloved brewery gal severely injured in drunk driving crash

Jessica Frotten was expected to die from injuries suffered in a drunk-driving accident. On December 14, she was tossed from a Honda Civic travelling the Alaska Highway after the driver lost control of the car.

Jessica Frotten was expected to die from injuries suffered in a drunk-driving accident.

On December 14, she was tossed from a Honda Civic travelling the Alaska Highway after the driver lost control of the car, crossed the median and rolled several times in a ditch.

Frotten, 21, was medevaced to a hospital in Edmonton, where doctors spent the next few weeks trying to keep her breathing.

One lung had been punctured and another was heavily bruised.

“It was touch-and-go for a while,” said her uncle Brian Boyle. “She wasn’t able to breathe for almost a month.”

Last week, she was taken off a pulmonary device that was keeping her alive.

“She has made an amazing recovery,” said Boyle, who is speaking on behalf of Frotten’s immediate family.

Frotten spent Christmas and New Year’s in the intensive care unit, with family members at her side.

“She’s eating a little bit now,” said Boyle.

It will be a long time before Frotten’s life ever returns to normal.

The accident caused severe spinal damage. Doctors fused two of her vertebrae together and examined a damaged spinal cord.

Frotten could be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

“The doctors are now saying that there is some reason to hope she’ll regain some use of her legs,” said Boyle.

“The damage may not be as severe as first thought,” he said.

But that’s far from certain.

Doctors don’t have any timeline for when a breakthrough may happen.

The only evidence they have is Frotten’s better-than-expected recovery thus far.

“She’s realistic about her condition,” said Boyle. “She understands she’s got a hell of a fight ahead of her, but she is a fighter.”

Frotten called her uncle from the hospital on Wednesday using the internet phone service Skype.

“Everyone who knows her is just amazed at how far she’s come and has no doubt that she’ll keep going,” he said.

Both of Frotten’s hands and one of her feet were broken. She suffered a torn aorta and sustained head injuries in the crash.

News of the accident hit especially hard at Frotten’s former workplace, the Yukon Brewery.

“When you hear somebody is in an accident and they’re quite possibly not going to live, it’s pretty heavy,” said Darcy Laliberty, an assistant manager at the brewery.

Frotten knew many customers by name when they would come through the brewery’s door looking for a fresh growler refill.

“She’s an extremely important person to everybody here,” said Laliberty, who described Frotten as a treasured employee who brought smiles to the rest of the brewery’s all-male personnel.

The atmosphere in the brewery was morose and devastated after news hit that Frotten’s life was on the line, he said.

Edmonton doctors hope to transfer Frotten to Whitehorse General Hospital before the end of the month. But that decision hasn’t been made.

“She will be coming home in a chair,” said Boyle.

In the meantime, a fundraiser was been organized for February 4 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Old Fire Hall by the brewery staff.

“We want to raise money for her to make things a little more comfortable,” said Laliberty, who came up with the idea to raise money.

“(The parents) have a really hard road ahead of them as far as recovery goes,” he said.

The Frotten family will have to remodel their bathrooms, install ramps, possibly buy a new vehicle and maybe purchase a rough-terrain wheelchair.

“There’s an astronomical amount of money that needs to be raised just so they’re not double-mortgaging their house,” said Laliberty.

The fundraiser will feature a silent auction with Guild tickets, hotel gift certificates and framed photographs up for grabs.

A DJ will play music during the event and Unitech has donated the sound equipment.

Kilrich has already donated lumber to build a ramp at the Frotten household.

Laliberty has started a bank account for Frotten’s benefit.

“I’ve already begun receiving money not only in town here, but from friends in Ontario and Alberta,” he said.

Frotten has been updating her Facebook account throughout her stay at the hospital in Edmonton.

“She routinely gets 50 to 60 responses to those updates almost immediately,” said Boyle.

“She’s very well known and well liked,” he said.

Frotten’s father, sister and extended family will attend the fundraiser.

And doctors have indicated that Frotten might make it too.

“We’re hoping that Jessie will be there,” said Boyle.

Frotten also has two half-brothers and two sisters in Whitehorse.

“This brought the family possibly closer together,” said Boyle.

“It’s pretty tight-knit extended family to start with. But we’re just in awe of that young woman.”

Frotten’s mother is still at her bedside in Edmonton. Her father only recently returned to Whitehorse, said Boyle.

She wasn’t the only person injured in the crash.

Another passenger, who was also not wearing a seat belt, was hospitalized after the accident, but remained in the Yukon.

The driver, Michael Schmidt, was wearing a seat belt and didn’t sustain serious injuries.

He was drinking the day of the crash.

Schmidt has phoned the Frotten family, said Boyle.

“He’s expressed remorse, but right now, we’re concentrating on helping Jess,” he said.

Schmidt has been charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm.

His first court hearing is scheduled for February 3, the day before Frotten’s fundraiser.

Anyone interested in learning more about the fundraiser can call the Yukon Brewery at 668-4183 or visit the Facebook page, “Jessica Frotten Mobility Fundraiser.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com