Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Patrol - Snow + Speed + Suspension = Seven Deaths

A snow storm covered Interstate 80 with several inches of snow on December 18, 1990. Despite these conditions, a westbound semi truck loaded with frozen hams continued to travel near freeway speeds. Just west of the Utah/Wyoming line the truck skidded out of control, careened down a 50 foot embankment, and slammed into the side of an eastbound Greyhound bus. The semi truck then careened into an eastbound semi truck. Seven passengers in the bus were killed and an additional 40 were injured. The bus came to rest on its side more than 100 feet from the roadway. Traffic backed up for five hours as troopers worked to clear the debris from the eastbound lanes. Poor weather conditions prevented rescue helicopters from landing at the scene of this tragedy.

The driver of the westbound semi truck was charged with driving too fast for conditions, driving on a suspended license, and failing to keep a driver’s log. The driver had an extensive history of speeding and suspension violations. During a jury trial, held in April 1991, Trooper Clark Lund testified that the truck was traveling between 52 and 58 mph. Trooper Lund testified that the speed was based on measurements taken the day of the accident, combined with accident reconstruction by several department experts. During the trial the defendant changed his plea to "no contest."

On January 2, 1991, dense fog plus freeway commuter traffic combined in a series of major accidents which closed Interstate 215 north in Davis County for over six hours. A total of four people were killed and 18 were injured when dozens of cars and 10 semi trucks rammed into each other in dense fog on a half mile strip of freeway. At least 52 vehicles were involved in the series of crashes that spread from Redwood Road to Interstate 15. Medical helicopters responded to the scene to expedite transportation of the crash victims. Several cars were completely crushed when trapped between semis. The momentum and weight of the moving semis were no match for the smaller vehicles. Adding to the problem was the fact that several vehicles were leaking gasoline or diesel fuel, and one of the semi trucks was a tanker loaded with liquid oxygen. Emergency response units from Davis and Salt Lake Counties were summoned to the scene, including hazardous materials experts. Lieutenant Ken Bryant confirmed that the cause of the crashes was motorists driving too fast in dense fog.

[Last Update - Friday, 20-Dec-2013 11:00:44 MST]