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Family wins lawsuit over kayakers’ deaths in Jordan River
Courts » Local governmental organizations were found to be at fault in fatalities.
First Published Jul 22 2014 08:48 pm • Last Updated Jul 22 2014 11:09 pm

A jury has found several public agencies were at fault in the 2010 kayaking deaths of a Sandy couple who drowned after being pulled into the current created by a constructed drop-off in the Jordan River.

The family of Kelly Frye-Glasser and Joseph Glasser on Tuesday won their case claiming multiple government agencies knew of the hazard, and that signs warning of the drop-off were overgrown with vegetation and hidden from view.

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The Glassers were paddling on the river Aug. 1, 2010, when they passed under the Winchester Street Bridge (6505 South) in Murray and over a concrete floor that spans the river bed. The spillway created a churning current as water poured over the wall and curled back over itself.

The Glassers were pulled into the current and drowned, despite wearing personal flotation devices.

The jury on Tuesday awarded a $2.4 million verdict to the family, but most of the parties already had settled; West Jordan City, the only defendant still in dispute, was found to bear 5 percent of the fault for the Glassers’ deaths. West Jordan allegedly trimmed vegetation along the Jordan River Parkway near the obscured warning signs but did not trim the plants covering the signs.

The other parties — Murray City, Salt Lake County, two state agencies and two contractors — settled for a total of $1.25 million, according to a filing by West Jordan. Court documents do not indicate the amount of each party’s settlement.

In apportioning blame for the Glassers’ deaths, the jury placed 50 percent of the fault on Murray City, which owns the bridge and the concrete spillway. According to the lawsuit, filed by Joseph Glasser’s parents and Kelly Frye-Glasser’s children, the Utah Department of Transportation designed the spillway that caused the recirculating current; the jury held UDOT responsible for 15 percent of the fault. The State of Utah, which owns the river, was assigned 10 percent of the fault. Another 10 percent went to Salt Lake County, which allegedly agreed to put barrels in the river upstream from the bridge to prevent boaters’ passage and commissioned a structural remedy for the drowning hazard — but never carried out either of those measures.

The Glassers themselves each bore 5 percent of the responsibility for their own deaths, the jury determined.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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