I did a post last month about several accidents that led to a final fatal accident miles away. Terrible weather on March 10th along the I-15 corridor north of St. George was cited as a contributing factor in a series of 3 accidents that occurred in quick succession in the southbound lanes. The final accident was described as:
Meanwhile, in nearby St. George, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper heard the call relating to the accidents on Interstate 15 and began to respond. He engaged his siren and lights and headed for the freeway to offer his assistance. At the same time, two elderly sisters were headed to an LDS ward house for a Relief Society meeting when they crossed paths with the trooper. The sisters, ages 71 and 75, turned left in front of the trooper and were hit – both died as a result of their injuries.
The UHP has now released the dash cam video of the final accident which can be viewed here. A UHP spokesman has reported that the involved trooper, Lars Gardner, wishes he could turn back time. I’m certain that is the case but what about accountability? The UHP won’t release the speed of the UHP cruiser at the time of impact claiming that the St. George police have to release that information. What? Really? The UHP can release the dash cam video but not the impact speed? That simply makes no sense and certainly creates the appearance of holding back relevant information.
At this point, it does not appear that any action will be taken to ensure accountability for this accident. As is typical in Utah, the office charged with reviewing possible charges, here that of the Washington County Attorney, has decided to not press criminal charges against Gardner. Gardner was on paid administrative leave for a period but he has returned to active duty. The UHP has indicated that it is still considering disciplinary action, but that does not seem likely at this point.
Perhaps the only good thing to come from this tragedy is that the UHP is considering a policy on speed limits for troopers responding to calls. The agency currently has no such policy and it appears that the discussion of one has generated a great deal of internal debate. Let’s hope for the sake of the sisters and others that have been injured or killed during such call responses, that the outcome is a rational policy that balances the involved interests and promotes safety.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.