"I thought many times that it would have been easier on the other side," says the 37-year-old farmer-turned-reality star.
Former Bachelor Chris Soules is ready to talk about his involvement in that fatal accident that took place near his Iowa farm in 2017.
The wreck claimed the life of Kenny Mosher, the 66-year-old man whose tractor was rear-ended by a pickup truck Soules was driving.
"The trauma of being involved in [the accident] is something I cannot describe," the 37-year-old farmer-turned-reality star told PEOPLE in an interview published Wednesday. "I think about it every day."
"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," he added. "My outlook on life has changed forever."
Soules became a household name as the star of "The Bachelor" in 2015, but he became known for different reasons after April 24, 2017.
The day began as normal.
That morning, Soules worked on a broken-down planter and surveyed his property. In the evening, he set out in a truck to pick up one of his workers, who was on one end of the family's farm, to take him to their headquarters.
"The next thing you know, I'm coming to inside my pickup," said Soules, who according to PEOPLE cannot discuss certain details 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.'"
Soules identified himself to the emergency dispatcher and followed instructions. He walked over to an unconscious Mosher and began administering CPR.
"I was giving chest compressions and continued to do CPR until eventually I spat out [Mosher's] blood," Soules recalled. "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 pivotal moment for Soules, both legally and in the public's opinion. He 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," he explained. "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."
On his way home, Soules called his parents, who advised him to call an attorney, who instructed Soules not to talk to the police until said attorney was present.
"I just followed his instructions," the reality star said. "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."
Soules was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality, a felony. The terms of his release from his initial court appearance included a 24-hour ankle monitor and an 11 p.m. curfew.
His charge was eventually amended to leaving the scene of an accident causing serious injury, which is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. Last month, Soules received two years of probation.
According to court docs, Soules had purchased beer on the day of the accident. There were also partially consumed containers of alcohol found in the truck he was driving at the time of the crash.
But Soules had an explanation.
He maintained he often bought food and drinks for his many hired hands, and that the truck could have been used by any one of his 15-plus employees. Three witnesses who were in close proximity to the incident testified that they did not detect any alcohol on Soules. He took a blood test six hours after the accident, and his BAC registered at 0.0.
"I saw some dark times," Soules said of his days post-crash. "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."
"I'll live with [what happened] forever," he added. "But I will carry on, and as a result of the tragedy, do something bigger and better with my life."
Now that the legal chapter of the ordeal is closed, Soules hopes to come together with the Mosher family to mourn the loss of their husband and father.
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