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Girl killed, 2 hurt as drivers hit washed-out road in E. Utah

Published July 15, 2011 7:17 am

SUV carrying Tabiona girl, her dad flies over chasm; another car plunges into the 30- to 40-foot-deep pit.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Driving west on the Wolf Creek Pass road Wednesday night, Michael Barneck had no idea there was a deadly, yawning pit ahead of him.

Heavy rainfall and a clogged culvert triggered the 11:30 p.m. collapse of State Road 35, several miles east of Tabiona, creating a hole in the roadway 40 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet deep, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

Barneck, of Tabiona, was heading home with his 15-year-old daughter when his Ford Excursion struck an upthrust piece of asphalt on the east edge of the pit. The SUV flew over the hole and crashed on the far side — the velocity of the vehicle carrying it up onto the west side of the road, the UHP reported.

Barneck, 59, survived in serious-to-critical condition and was taken by medical helicopter to a Salt Lake City hospital Thursday morning. But his daughter, Justine, died from her injuries.

At the same time Barneck encountered the roadway chasm, a Honda Element coming from the opposite direction plunged into the pit.

The car, driven by Heidi Paulson, landed upside down in the hole.

Paulson, 37, of Whiterocks, was extricated by rescue workers and taken to Uintah Basin Medical Center in Roosevelt. After Paulson was stabilized, she also was flown to a Salt Lake City hospital.

Barneck's wife, Linda Elder Barneck, told The Tribune she had a feeling something had happened to her husband.

She said she called her husband — who had been dropping off his daughter's friend— and immediately asked if he had been in an accident.

He said he had been in a pretty serious one. Seconds later, Linda Barneck said, an ambulance sped past their Tabiona home.

Linda Barneck and Justine's twin sister, Jentri, followed the ambulance to the scene.

Michael and Justine Barneck were wearing seat belts, and both airbags deployed.

Linda Barneck said her husband was pretty beat up. As for their daughter, Barneck knew she had not made it.

"She loved to help people. She was the best little worker," Barneck said of Justine, recalling how people knew they could trust and depend on her since she was very young. "She was the best angel."

Justine attended Tabiona High School. She played basketball and volleyball and was one of six children. The family moved to Tabiona four years ago. Michael works as a real estate appraiser and Linda as a real estate agent.

Barneck said her husband kept saying he didn't see the hole on the road. He didn't know what happened until he climbed out of the SUV and tried to help his daughter. He was reported to be doing better Thursday afternoon.

The Utah Department of Transportation said S.R. 35 will be closed for seven to nine days between S.R. 208 and S.R. 87. Motorists will need to use U.S. 40 as an alternate route.

Damage to the road also impacted a fiber-optics communications line, affecting services in the area, according to UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson.

rorellana@sltrib.com ===== —

Account opened for contributions

An account has been opened at Zions Bank under Justine Barneck's name for anyone wanting to help the family pay for funeral costs.