Deadly holiday weekend stuns UHP as 9 perish on Utah roads
A West Jordan driver faces homicide charges in a Tooele crash that killed a Farmington woman and her two young daughters.
The three victims were among nine who died in what was the deadliest holiday weekend this year on Utah's roadways.
In court documents filed Monday, troopers wrote that Paul Mumford, 36, was driving a pickup east on Saturday after a trip to Wendover, when witnesses saw him make a U-turn in an emergency turn-around on Interstate 80. Mumford was veering in and out of lanes and tailgating another car before he came to a stop in the east-most lane, one witness reported. The witness pulled over to talk to the driver, but the pickup turned around and began traveling east again, in the westbound lanes.
About 30 miles east of Wendover, Mumford's pickup crashed head-on into a Chevy Suburban carrying a Farmington family. Delphine John, 44, and her two daughters Anaya Orozco, 3, and Deliah Ramirez, 18. John's husband was critically injured.
No skid marks were visible at the scene, leaving investigators to believe the crash occurred at full speed. The impact "was so violent that the engine of [the Suburban] was found approximately 10 feet away from the vehicle," troopers wrote.
Mumford was taken to a hospital, where troopers interviewed him and reported that he smelled of alcohol. He said he had "a couple of beers and had been at the casino for a couple of hours," troopers wrote. He said he fell asleep behind the wheel, troopers said.
The weekend's nine fatalities reinforced the Fourth of July's distinction as, historically, the deadliest holiday in the state. Except for 2012, the Independence Day weekend has never passed without a fatality since at least 1996 (the earliest, readily available records), and historically has the most fatalities of the holiday weekends that the Utah Highway Patrol tracks.
UHP Maj. Michael Rapich confessed that the deadly holiday week "was discouraging, and that's an enormous understatement."
As part of its "100 Deadliest Days of Summer Campaign," UHP has flooded the interstates and highways with troopers and conducted an aggressive public education program on driving safety.
"We've tried our best to be proactive, put a lot of information out there to motorists on how to be safe. We tapped every resource we had in UHP to get troopers out there, focusing on DUIs, distracted driving, aggressive drivers, people not wearing seat belts and getting stranded motorists off the roads and out of danger," Rapich said.
"And still, we had two separate crashes and nine fatalities. Both of those crashes appeared to have involved aggressive driving in one form or another, and both of them were absolutely avoidable," he added.
UHP and other law enforcement agencies will regroup and continued to beef up patrols and enforcement, Rapich vowed.
"We're looking at everything we can to halt this dramatic, upward change, and it is dramatic, up almost 40 percent [from this time last year]," he said.
One day after the fatal wreck on Interstate 80, a van crashed head-on with a sports car on U.S. Highway 191, about 10 miles north of Monticello. Four of the five people in the van died, as well as both people in the sports car. The remaining two people from the van were also critically injured, according to the UHP.
As far as investigators have been able to tell, the van had been attempting to pass a vehicle.
The van occupants who died were: the driver, Samantha Blueeyes, 23; Alfreda A. Bowman, 28; Michael A. Blueeyes, 22; and Esmerelda Valesquez, 11. The sole survivor from the van was Travis L. Howland, 24. All of the van occupants were from Salt Lake City, according to the UHP.
The two who died in the car were: the driver, Cody R. Farrabee, 22, of Queen Creek, Ariz.; and Rheana Hazel, 23, of Las Vegas, Nev.
The fatal crashes add to an already discouraging year on Utah roads. June was the worst single month for fatal crashes in nine years.
Utah Highway Patrol statistics from 4th of July weekend
The following statistics refer to events that occurred between 12:01 a.m. on July 4, until 11:59 p.m. on July 6.
Regular shifts worked • 449
Overtime shifts worked • 200
Total traffic stops • 4,103
DUI arrests • 60
Other alcohol arrests • 40
Speed citations • 2,670
Seat belt citations • 268
Crashes investigated • 126
Fatal crashes • Two, with nine fatalities.
* Source: Utah Department of Public Safety