Utah couple killed in Hawaii car crash leaves legacy of compassion

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Former BYU Law School assistant dean Rebecca van Uitert and her husband Dr. Jason Howell were killed in a three-car collision in Hawaii on Jan. 30, leaving behind four children.

Hawaii police identified van Uitert and Howell as victims in the crash. Van Uitert worked in immigration law and was BYU Law’s Assistant Dean of Career Development until 2020. Howell was a physician who practiced family medicine in Heber City. The two were vacationing on Hawaii’s Big Island.

(Video by Ashley Chase)

Howell and van Uitert were driving a 2020 Jeep SUV traveling north on Highway 11 when another driver in a 2016 Toyota 4Runner going south crossed the double solid yellow line and struck them head-on, according to Hawaii Island police. After the initial collision, a 2000 Volvo sedan traveling south struck the Toyota 4Runner and sustained minor damage.

Rebecca van Uitert was an immigration attorney and worked as BYU Law’s Assistant Dean of Career Development until 2020. At the time of her death, she was the managing partner of Fragomen’s Salt Lake City office. (Photo courtesy of BYU Law)

The couple was unresponsive at the scene and later pronounced dead at Hilo Medical Center, along with the female driver of the 4Runner, police said.

Van Uitert and Howell’s four children were at home with grandparents during the crash. At the time of her death, van Uitert was the managing partner of Fragomen’s Salt Lake City office.

She previously served as the Pro Bono Coordinator for the firm’s Chicago office, leading efforts to provide pro bono attorney representation to asylum-seeking women and children.

Dr. Jason Howell was a physician who practiced family medicine at Heber Valley Hospital. His colleagues remember him as a “beloved friend” who gave compassionate care to patients. (Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare)

“Everything Becca did was done with purpose, grace and warmth,” a statement from the firm says. “She is deeply missed and lovingly remembered.”

In a Facebook post, BYU Law School Dean Gordon Smith wrote a message to the community. “I know many of you will feel, as I do, an almost incomprehensible sense of loss that people who were such a big part of our lives and who were doing so much good in the world could be taken so young.”

Intermountain Healthcare released a statement to The Daily Universe on Howell’s death from Heber Valley Hospital administrator Si Hutt, hospital medical director David Sutherland and Heber Valley Clinic senior practice manager Brian Peterson.

“Dr. Howell was a beloved friend, physician and medical staff leader. His compassionate care and welcoming demeanor endeared him to patients and fellow caregivers,” it says, adding that he was fluent in Spanish and a strong advocate for the Hispanic community. 

“He loved the interactions with his patients and truly got to know them as he partnered to co-create holistic, personal plans to improve health. Dr. Howell will leave a lasting legacy.”

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