Vehicular accidents accounted for nearly 43,000 deaths in 2001…another 2.3 million people received disabling injuries. They are the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for every age group under 18 except 1-year-olds, accounting for 47% of the nearly 6,500 accidental deaths suffered by children under legal driving age. Those children died not because they were adventuresome, or inattentive, or foolish, but because someone else made a mistake behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. The goal of this “Alert” program is to provide teaching points derived from recent YMCA-related incidents to prevent similar events. Each will begin with the article (omitting any name or identifying references to a YMCA, if involved). As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546.
TREMONTON - A Utah State University field trip to a Box Elder County farm ended in tragedy Monday afternoon when a van carrying the students blew a tire on Interstate 84 and rolled four times down an embankment, throwing all 11 on board from the van and killing eight.
The driver, Evan P. Parker, 45, of Hooper along with Steven D. Bair, 24, of Moses Lake, Wash., Curt A. Madsen, 23, of Payson, Ryan W. McEntire, 22, of West Point, Bradley G. Wilcox, 26, of Salt Lake City and Justin W. Gunnell, 24, of Providence were pronounced dead by emergency crews when they arrived at the crash site about seven miles west of Tremonton.
Dusty D. Fuhriman, 22, of Tremonton later died at Bear River Hospital in Tremonton. Jonathan D. Jorgensen, 22, of Hyrum died after being flown to University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Three of the students remained in critical condition Monday night. Robert H. Petersen, 21, of Tremonton and Justin C. Huggins, 21, of Bear River were being treated at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and Jared P. Nelson, 22, of Provo was sent to Ogden Regional Medical Center, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Police used witness descriptions of the accident and skid marks to ascertain how the van left the road. It appeared the van was speeding when the left rear tire blew, Nelson said. It was not clear how far above the posted 75 mph limit the van was traveling, he said.
A motorist who was following the van said pieces of tire flew from the van before it veered off the road and rolled. “It looked like bodies were being catapulted out,” Nelson said.
Rescuers found the bodies of the dead and the survivors in the tall grass within about 100 feet of the van.
Nelson said the students had been on a field trip to a farm west of Tremonton. They learned about farm equipment and were returning to the USU campus in Logan just before 4 p.m. on the sunny, clear afternoon.
One of the injured was coherent when rescued and was able to provide a limited amount of information, said Trooper Christopher Witte.
Nelson said there would have been severe injuries even if the driver and passengers were belted. “But I have no doubt there would have been more that survived.”
The tragedy is compounded by the fact that the students from the USU College of Agriculture are celebrating “Ag Week” beginning Monday, said USU President Stan Albrecht.
“This was a group of students on a beautiful fall day…returning from a field trip in western Box Elder County [Tremonton],” Albrecht said in his office Monday night. “In this university that prides itself on providing a family atmosphere, we certainly extend our love to the spouses and families.”
USU officials weren't certain of who was driving the vehicle but Albrecht said the van had undergone a full safety inspection at the end of June when it was found to be in compliance with all requirements. Once the identity of the driver is known, university officials will be able to determine whether the driver completed the university's driver safety program that was implemented after a 15-passenger van accident in 2001.
Six members of the then-10th-ranked USU men's volleyball team were involved in a Dodge van rollover on April 11, 2001, near Laramie, Wyo., en route to a competition in Kansas City. Greg Jorgenson, a USU senior at the time, was seriously injured when the student-driven vehicle was caught in a storm that swept through the Plains, Colorado and Wyoming.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol reportedly received reports of 55 accidents during that storm, but Trooper Adam Zukowski said the USU vehicle's speed was more of a factor than the weather.
USU officials responded on April 26, 2001, to the accident by implementing a new van policy sanctioned by the National Highway Safety Board.
All USU van drivers - students and university employees - have since been required to attend a one-day driver training program provided by the Bridgerland Applied Technology College featuring four hours of classroom time and four hours of “behind the wheel” practical instruction.
“The University has adopted a policy that all those who drive 15-passenger vans must have either a Utah State University Van Certificate or a valid Commercial Drivers License,” according to USU Policy 514.1, Use of University Vehicles.
Although this is not the first 15-passenger van accident USU officials have had to deal with, it is the worst, according to spokesman John DeVilbiss.
“I think we're all reeling, stunned,” DeVilbiss said Monday night in the president's office. “Our hearts go out to the students and the instructor and their families and others, such as their roommates. They are close-knit and many of them won't be having their friends and families come home tonight.”
(much learned through articles not cited above…note that the ninth victim died at the hospital after the cited article was printed)
This incident is a classic example of what not to do. Don’t set your driver up for failure. Don’t expose your passengers to unnecessary danger. Establish your protocols and stringently enforce them.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.