Three people are missing and presumed dead after a canal collapsed on Saturday and caused a massive mudslide in a Logan, Utah neighborhood. The victims, Jackeline Leavy and her two children, 13-year-old Victor Alanis and 12-year-old Abbey Alanis, had just returned to their home at 915 Canyon Road when the mudslide ripped through their neighborhood. The slide immediately destroyed the home and pushed the upper floor more than 20 feet off the foundation of the house. When the mud settled, fifteen families from six neighborhood houses were evacuated.
The canal in question, the Logan Northern Canal, has caused dozens of landslides in its 100 plus year history. But it is privately owned by a group of water share owners and state and local authorities have left the job of inspecting the integrity of the canal to the owners. On top of that, there is no system of checks and balances which allow oversight of the inspections the owners claim they conduct.
There are records of slides blamed on the canal that go back to 1899, but there is no requirement that prospective home buyers be advised of the danger that lurks in what may be their future backyard. The response to this issue, in hindsight, has been "buyer beware." But that seems entirely unsatisfactory in light of the danger posed by not only the Logan Northern, but the 30 plus other canals in Cache Valley and the thousands of others that snake through the rest of Utah. As things currently stand, residents in danger zones have to rely on someone who has come before them to warn them or their ability to read between cryptic lines of a topographic map of their neighborhood (if they know what one is or where to get one). Does that seem right? I don’t think so and my guess is that victims of past slide would agree.
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.