Rich Kovach was standing in his garage when someone lunged under the door, which was partway open, and grabbed his leg.

There’d been an accident, the man said. And he needed help.

Kovach rushed to the scene in snowy Mt. Rose, Nevada, and wasn’t prepared for what he saw.

“When I looked at his head, it appeared to me to be cracked wide open and I could see white,” Kovach said in an interview with Diane Sawyer that aired Thursday night on ABC. “I don’t know if that was his skull, maybe just my imagination, but that is what I thought I saw. So I knew it was extremely serious. He had some blood coming out of his ears, I know for sure, and then his eye, it looked like it had been punched out.”

The person was so unrecognizable that Kovach had to ask who it was. The man who urgently grabbed him from his garage, 27-year-old Alex Fries, gave him the answer: It was Fries’ uncle, actor Jeremy Renner.

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Jeremy Renner snowplow accident — the 911 call

A new one-hour special on ABC goes behind-the-scenes of the life-threatening snowplow accident that landed Renner in an ICU with more than 30 broken bones. It starts with the 911 call made by Renner’s neighbors, Rich Kovach and Barb Fletcher, at 8:55 a.m. on Jan. 1.

“You might wanna get life flight out here immediately,” Kovach says early on as Renner can be heard moaning in the background.

But that 911 call would last for 21 minutes as first responders struggled to get to the scene due to a snowstorm the night before. Although it was not snowing at the time of the accident, the nearby Mt. Rose Highway was closed at that hour due to “severe winter weather,” the Deseret News previously reported.

As the minutes dragged on, Renner’s breaths got shorter, Kovach said. Fletcher recalled Renner turning a gray-green color, and was convinced that Renner died for a few seconds.

“I don’t think he gave up; I think his body gave up,” she said with emotion. “This was the sound of someone that was dying.”

Eventually, Renner was airlifted to a nearby Reno hospital at 9:56 a.m. — an hour after the 911 call, per the Deseret News.

He would end up staying in the hospital for two weeks, undergoing surgeries and beginning his recovery from a slew of serious injuries, including eight ribs broken in 14 places; a broken right knee; a broken right ankle; a broken left tibia; a broken left ankle; a broken right clavicle; a broken right shoulder; a pierced liver and a collapsed lung, the Deseret News reported.

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The accident

“Do you remember the pain?” Sawyer asks Renner at one point during the interview.

“All of it,” Renner responds. “I was awake through every moment.”

As Renner and his nephew remember it, the accident occurred as they were towing a family vehicle, a Ford Raptor, out of the snow. After successfully getting the truck out of the snow, Fries undid the chain connecting the two vehicles. The 1988 PistenBully snowplow — which weighs a little over 14,000 pounds — began to slide on the ice. Renner couldn’t see his nephew so he stuck one foot out of the plow to look back and make sure his nephew was safe. He didn’t set the parking brake, and quickly lost his footing and fell out of the snowplow onto the asphalt and ice.

Afraid his nephew would get smashed between the PistenBully and the Ford Raptor, Renner attempted to jump back into the snowplow to disengage it but instead slipped and got run over by the 7-ton vehicle.

“I just happened to be the dummy standing on the dang track a little bit, seeing if my nephew was there,” Renner recalled in the interview with Sawyer. “You shouldn’t be outside the vehicle when you’re operating it, you know what I mean? It’s like driving a car with one foot out of the car. But it is what it was. And it’s my mistake, and I paid for it.”

Fries, who got into the Ford Raptor before the snowplow hit the vehicle, recalled the scene of the accident with emotion.

“I ran up to him. ... It was pretty terrifying to see the person that you look up to for so much to be like that, to see them like that,” he said. “I didn’t think he was alive.”

“I could see my eye with my other eye,” Renner said of his severe injuries. “If I was there on my own, that would have been a horrible way to die. Surely it would’ve. But I wasn’t alone. It was my nephew, sweet Alex, and the rest of the cavalry came.”

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Jeremy Renner’s ongoing recovery

Renner’s recovery started at the hospital, where his younger sister, Kim Renner, was the first person to arrive. She called it “one of the scariest things” she’d ever seen.

As more of his family arrived at the hospital, Renner, unable to speak, used his hands to make a circular motion on his chest — sign language for “I’m sorry.”

“I feel bad that my actions caused so much pain,” Renner said.

At the hospital — where he celebrated his 52nd birthday — Renner underwent a reconstruction of sorts. His rib cages were rebuilt with metal. His jaw is now held together with rubber bands and screws.

Throughout his hospital stay, his family stayed by his side. His mom read Stephen King to him — something that makes Renner laugh.

“It happened to be what I was reading at the time,” she said matter-of-factly during the interview. “I just wanted him to hear my voice.”

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Renner’s family recalled how the actor’s personality came through more and more each day at the hospital. Now, at his home in Los Angeles, Renner continues to do physical therapy for several hours a day — he still doesn’t have sensation in some parts of his body, he said.

“The guy is so stubborn,” his mom said. “He’s not going to let anything take him down.”

As Renner continues his recovery, he said he is focusing on transforming his suffering into strength — he doesn’t want the memory to become a trauma that haunts him.

“Do you look in the mirror and do you see the same face?” Sawyer asked Renner at one point.

“No,” Renner responded. “I see a lucky man.”

Note: “Jeremy Renner: The Diane Sawyer Interview — A Story of Terror, Survival and Triumph” will be available to stream on Hulu starting April 7.