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Parents of Tabiona girl sue UDOT over fatal car accident
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The parents of a 15-year-old Tabiona girl who died from injuries in a car accident are suing the Utah Department of Transportation for more than $1 million in damages.

About 11 p.m. on July 13, 2011, Michael Barneck drove his daughter Justine and her friend on State Road 35 to drop off the friend at her parents' house in Altamont.

Less than an hour later, Barneck and his daughter were returning to their home in Tabiona driving west on SR35, unaware the road had collapsed at about 11:45 p.m., creating a chasm more than 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court on Tuesday.

"The road had collapsed as a result of water that gradually backed up at the point where the creek bed passes under SR35 near Tabiona," the lawsuit states.

Barneck's Ford Excursion struck an upthrust piece of asphalt where the road had given way. The velocity of the SUV carried it over the hole, and it crashed on the far side, the Utah Highway Patrol reported the night of the accident. Justine died from injuries in the crash. Michael Barneck suffered serious injuries, the lawsuit states.

Another vehicle had already driven into the hole from the opposite direction that same night, court documents say. That driver also suffered serious injuries.

The lawsuit says earlier that day, UDOT employees worked in the area where a blocked culvert had caused temporary lake of about 20 feet deep on the north side of SR35.

"Despite the failure to remedy the situation, UDOT's agents and employees discontinued working at the site of the blockage and temporary lake sometime in the afternoon or evening of July 13, 2011."

UDOT did not leave an employee to monitor the situation and/or warn drivers of the dangerous conditions created by the water and saturated fill, the family claims.

The lawsuit claims the agency was negligent in not posting warnings of any kind or putting lighting in the area.

"UDOT knew or should have known that the build-up of water next to SR35, and the associated saturation of the underlying fill, created a risk that the road would collapse," the lawsuit states.

The Barnecks seek an unspecified amount in damages, but believe the total would exceed more than $1 million.

Also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit is the State of Utah.

rorellana@sltrib.com

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