Rollover kills eight agriculture students and instructor

    107

    By PAUL FOY

    Associated Press Writer

    TREMONTON, Utah (AP) – A Utah State University van returning to campus from a field trip blew a tire on Interstate 84 and rolled over, killing eight agriculture students and an instructor. Two other students were hospitalized.

    The van overturned Monday on the freeway near Tremonton, about 65 miles northwest of Salt Lake City. All 11 occupants were thrown from the van.

    The driver, Evan Parker, 45, of Hooper; Steven Bair, 24, of Moses Lake, Wash.; Curt Madsen, 23, of Payson; Ryan McEntire, 22, of West Point; Bradley Wilcox, 26, of Salt Lake City and Justin Gunnell, 24, of Providence were pronounced dead by emergency crews at the scene, according to a Utah Highway Patrol report.

    Dusty Fuhriman, 22, of Tremonton later died at Bear River Hospital in Tremonton. Jonathan Jorgensen, 22, of Hyrum died after being flown to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, the report said. Justin Huggins, 21, of Bear River died overnight at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, hospital spokesman Terry Behunin said Tuesday.

    Robert Petersen, 21, of Tremonton was in critical condition Tuesday at McKay-Dee Hospital. Jared Nelson, 22, of Provo was in critical condition at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said spokeswoman Pam Vogle.

    The students were underclassmen.

    “Some have only been on campus a couple of weeks,” university President Stan Albrecht said, calling the deaths an “incredible tragedy.”

    No one in the 16-passenger van, driven by the instructor, was wearing a seat belt, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

    The single-vehicle crash occurred at about 4 p.m. It appeared the left rear tire on the eastbound van had blown as it tried to pass another vehicle, said patrol Lt. Ed Michaud.

    The Dodge van rolled four times, coming to rest on its wheels about six feet from a 50-foot-deep ravine, troopers said. The van’s roof was collapsed to the windows. Parts of the vehicle and personal belongings littered the area near the freeway.

    “It was a horrific, nasty accident,” said Trooper Jason Jensen. “It was one of those things you don’t want to drive up on.”

    Albrecht said the students had been on a field trip to look at harvest equipment near Tremonton, west of the Logan campus. Utah State University has about 21,000 students.

    “Everybody at this point is stunned,” said university spokesman John DeVilbiss.

    A similar rollover shocked the school in April 2001 and prompted a government safety warning for large-size vans.

    Six members of the Utah State University men’s volleyball club were injured when their Dodge van flipped in April 2001 near Laramie, Wyo.

    The club was on its way to a competition in Kansas City when it was caught in a storm. The storm caused dozens of crashes that day, but troopers said speed was more of a factor in the crash.

    The USU rollover and similar crashes that killed four women on a trip with the First Assembly of God church in Burkburnett, Texas, and two members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at the University of Central Arkansas prompted a government advisory.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a warning that the vans have a dramatically higher risk of rollovers when fully loaded and only should be operated by experienced drivers.

    After the 2001 crash, USU officials implemented a policy that required all USU van drivers, students and university employees attend a one-day driver training program.

    It was not immediately clear if Parker had completed the training, but Don Snyder, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, said completion of the course is required to drive a school van.

    “I’m sure he did, because we all have to,” Snyder said. “You can’t check out a van from the university motor pool without taking that course.”

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email