A series of near misses coupled with several serious accidents has Utah Highway Patrol officials counting their blessings concerning an Easter weekend which concluded without a single reported highway fatality.
"While we never like to respond to any kind of accident, no one died over Easter weekend that we worked with," stated Utah Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Dan Altenes. "The one accident with the dump truck in Eastern Utah was a miracle, I mean that could have been much worse. We really dodged a bullet there."
The accident Trooper Altenes is referring to is one of three incidents which took place in the Castle Valley this weekend. At about 2 p.m. on April 7, a Ford Explorer collided with a semi-truck hauling frozen food on U.S. Highway 6 near mile marker 251. According to the UHP, the driver of the Explorer required extrication following the collision but did not face serious injury. In fact, no one involved with the accident was transported to area medical facilities for treatment.
"There were many crashes statewide," continued Altenes. "From the Wasatch Front to Castle Valley and the southern portion of the state we were pretty busy. I would say the worst situation involved the gentleman who shot himself. (See related story, this page.) However there was also a rollover on I-15 which involved the ejection of an eight year old child and another rollover on I-70 with six people involved and again everyone survived."
The Interstate 70 rollover also occurred on April 7 at approximately 1:30 p.m. The incident caused major delays by shutting down eastbound holiday traffic starting at milepost 251 for about 30 minutes. According to a report filed by Altenes, a black Ford Ranger with six occupants rolled causing minor to serious injuries to all. The trooper further reported that a medical helicopter was dispatched to transport one victim following the impact.
According to the state trooper, life saving devices such a seat belts and air bags played a major role in the fact that no fatalities were reported over the holiday as more and more motorists consistently use the equipment.
"I think that statistically seat belt use is always on the rise and I feel like drivers become more aware of the dangers surrounding holiday travel a little more with each passing year," said Altenes. "I also think the state's campaign focusing on the dangers of drowsy driving is paying off."
The trooper reported that signs have been strategically placed in both heavily traveled and outlying areas which encourage drivers to pull of and rest at the first sign of fatigue.
"During the holidays especially, people try to push it in order to get where they are going and that can become very dangerous very fast," explained the trooper. "In my opinion, drowsy driving is every bit as dangerous as impaired or distracted driving."
The trooper had no further information concerning this weekend's third incident in the Castle Valley, a chase which culminated in an April 7 suicide attempt in Price.
In that incident, suspect Richard L. McCoy, 42, of Salt Lake City, led Carbon County and UHP troopers on a lengthy car case which reportedly concluded with McCoy sustaining a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. As of Wednesday, the suspect remains hospitalized at the University of Utah in critical condition. Following the incident, troopers determined that McCoy was wanted on four statewide warrants totaling $80,000 at the time of the incident.
"Incidents involving weapons are always difficult," stated Altenes concerning the case. "However, we were pleased that no one else was hurt during the incident because there was obviously the potential for a lot to go wrong."
While the UHP Trooper did report that 2012's Easter Weekend was a busy one for public safety officials, he was optimistic about the upcoming Summer vacation season.
"With increased traffic there is always the potential for increased accidents but we have some good campaigns out there right now and the public seems to be cooperating. What we would ask moving forward is for everyone to try and keep their speed down and make sure that they give themselves plenty of time to get to their destination. If we can get some help in these areas we could see less accidents this summer," concluded Altenes.