Tragedy drives home importance of securing loads on vehicles
Gerald Holgreen mailed a letter Thursday afternoon to apologize for something he knows a written "sorry" can never really make up for.
His voice trembling, he said he hoped his words would provide some solace for a Brigham City family whose lives had been altered forever.
"I just want the family to know I'm hurting, but not nearly as bad as they are I'm sure," said the 53-year-old.
He was hauling a mattress, secured with heavy rope on an ATV trailer behind his Chevy Tahoe, for friends Monday when the cargo fell off on Interstate 15 near Willard in Box Elder County around 10 p.m. Holgreen said he was unaware the mattress had fallen off until he arrived at his Fruit Heights home and began looking Tuesday morning for his cargo.
Royce Munns, a 46-year-old Brigham City husband and father of four, was killed when he ran into the mattress about 45 minutes later while riding his motorcycle.
Holgreen was unaware of the crash initially but called authorities after hearing news of Munns' death Tuesday. He was cited for failure to secure a load.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Todd Johnson said UHP receives multiple calls every day for debris on the highways, and those calls increase in the summer as people begin cleaning up their yards.
"It's a daily occurrence out there," Johnson said.
Johnson said it's better for drivers hauling cargo to over-secure, with at least one strap for every 10 feet of whatever they are hauling, to avoid incidents like the one that claimed Munns' life. Drivers should never attempt to remove debris from the road by themselves and should instead call 911 for Highway Patrol assistance.
"It's unfortunate and sad that an individual lost [his] life because a mattress was lying in the road," Johnson said. "I know the individual that was hauling it tied it down, but we need to take every precaution and make sure we have enough tie-downs on there."
Holgreen said he hopes the letter to Munns' family is a small measure to show how sorry he is.
"There's no other way," Holgreen said about writing the letter. "I've just always tried to do the right thing and I didn't give it a second thought. I have a conscience and have to sleep at night."
Munns, who was described in his obituary as a car lover and best friend to each one of his kids, is also survived by his mother and three siblings.
Holgreen said he hopes his story can prevent future crashes and remind drivers that hauling safely is essential.
"It's so serious and it's a life-changer," Holgreen said. "People have got to be so careful."
How to help
I Motorists who spot debris in the road should call 911 to report it to the Utah Highway Patrol.
By the numbers
Number of citations and warnings issued in recent years by the Utah Highway Patrol troopers for failure to secure a load:
2012 • 113 citations and 96 warnings
2011 • 281 citations and 302 warnings
2010 • 205 citations and 211 warnings