Utah Highway Patrol troopers were still trying Monday to unravel details of a multi-vehicle crash involving a church youth group van Sunday in Tooele County that left three people dead and six more seriously injured.
UHP Trooper Mark Thompson said the accident occurred about 3:15 p.m. Sunday on Highway 36 near Stansbury Parkway. A northbound minivan, carrying members of a youth group from a non-denominational Christian chapel at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, apparently attempted to change lanes and clipped an SUV; the minivan then spun across the median and into a southbound Subaru sedan.
Both occupants in the Subaru, 61-year-old Urban "James" Montoya and 58-year-old Melodie Clement, of Tooele, were instantly killed, as was Donnett McCollin, 43, of Dugway, a front-seat passenger in the minivan.
The minivan’s driver, 44-year-old Kevin McCollin, remained in critical condition Monday; five teens, ages 14 to 17, were in serious condition after having been ejected from the minivan and thrown to the pavement.
Montoya and Clement were "just great people," said longtime friend Carol Hale. The two had lived together for more than 30 years and were passionate animal welfare advocates and pet owners, Hale said. Both worked in computer technology for Wells Fargo bank.
Montoya was "very outdoorsy" and an avid skier and cyclist, Hale said. Clement was generous, intelligent and "strong-willed," Hale said.
"I miss her right now," Hale said. "She should be telling us what to do right now and how to do it. But she’s not here."
Dugway spokesman Al Vogel confirmed that the minivan was en route to Salt Lake City, where the youth group had planned to attend a Christian rock music concert Sunday at the Maverik Center.
The minivan was one of four vehicles carrying members of the chapel’s congregation to the concert on Sunday, but Vogel said he did not know whether the cars were in a caravan or spread farther apart.
He did say that of the four chapel-connected vehicles, only the minivan was involved in the accident.
"This is a tragic event that touches many lives beyond those directly involved in the accident," said Col. Ronald Fizer, commander of Dugway Proving Ground, in a statement. "Dugway Proving Ground is working together with others to provide support to those affected. We will keep all those involved in our thoughts and prayers."
The U.S. Army chaplain of Dugway Proving Ground is supporting the injured, and the Dugway Hope Chapel and community residents have provided food and help to the families of the injured, according to a Dugway Proving Ground news release. Community members are gathering at the chapel to pray, seek solace and comfort each other, the release adds.
Dugway Proving Ground is about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City and 40 miles from Tooele, making it one of the most remote government postings in the contiguous United States, the release adds. The remote location has "forged strong ties among its residents and workers since [the depot’s] creation in 1942."
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