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Utah State University Mourns Van Crash Victims

Utah State University Mourns Van Crash Victims



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(AP/KSL News) — A ninth victim has died in a fatal van rollover involving Utah State University students. The van was returning to campus from a field trip Monday when it blew a tire on Interstate 84 and rolled over. Eight agriculture students and an instructor are dead. Two other students remain hospitalized.

The van overturned Monday on the freeway near Tremonton, about 65 miles northwest of Salt Lake City. All 11 occupants were thrown from the van.

The driver, Evan Parker, 45, of Hooper, Steven Bair, 24, of Moses Lake, Wash., Curt Madsen, 23, of Payson, Ryan McEntire, 22, of West Point, Bradley Wilcox, 26, of Salt Lake City and Justin Gunnell, 24, of Providence were pronounced dead by emergency crews at the scene, according to a report by the Utah Highway Patrol.

Utah State University Mourns Van Crash Victims
Photo: (KSL TV)

Dusty Fuhriman, 22, of Tremonton later died at Bear River Hospital in Tremonton. Jonathan Jorgensen, 22, of Hyrum died after being flown to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, according to the report. Justin Huggins, 21, from Bear River, died overnight at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

Two students remain in the hospital. Robert Petersen, 21, of Tremonton and Jared Nelson, 22, of Provo are in critical condition.

The students were underclassmen, mostly freshmen.

"Some have only been on campus a couple of weeks," university President Stan Albrecht said, calling the deaths an "incredible tragedy."

No one in the 16-passenger van, driven by the instructor, was wearing a seat belt, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

Terrie Johnston carries a bumper from the scene of a rollover crash that killed eight people Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, along I-84 northwest of Tremonton, Utah. Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jim Miller, right rear, investigates the crash. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Terrie Johnston carries a bumper from the scene of a rollover crash that killed eight people Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, along I-84 northwest of Tremonton, Utah. Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jim Miller, right rear, investigates the crash. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac) (Photo: (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac))

The single-vehicle crash occurred at about 4 p.m., according to the patrol report. It appeared the left rear tire on the eastbound van had blown as it tried to pass another vehicle, said patrol Lt. Ed Michaud.

The Dodge van rolled four times, coming to rest on its wheels about six feet from a 50-foot-deep ravine, troopers said. The van's roof was collapsed to the windows. Parts of the vehicle and personal belongings littered the area near the freeway.

"It was a horrific, nasty accident," said Trooper Jason Jensen. "It was one of those things you don't want to drive up on."

Albrecht said the students had been on a field trip to look at harvest equipment near Tremonton, west of the Logan campus. Utah State University has about 21,000 students.

"Everybody at this point is stunned," said university spokesman John DeVilbiss.

Grief counselors will be on Utah State University campus this morning to help both faculty and students.

"I think it's terrible," said USU senior Kaylyn Newhell. "It's just a terrible thing for all the students at Utah State."

"It's just really tough," said Noelle Cockett, Dean of agriculture at USU. "To see the names, to see the contact information, to be helping get that, it's a really tough thing."

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jim Miller, right, photographs the scene of a rollover crash on Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, along I-84 northwest of Tremonton, Utah. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jim Miller, right, photographs the scene of a rollover crash on Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, along I-84 northwest of Tremonton, Utah. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac) (Photo: (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac))

Counselors will be handing out black ribbons in memory of the victims.

Shellie Stevens, Utah State Sophomore: "I was acquainted with (Jonathan Jorgensen). You don't have to know someone really well to just look at a list and realize that they were so young, and their gone."

Mike Petersen, Utah State Sophomore: "It's a real somber mood today obviously. They are passing out ribbons in memory of them."

The students in the van were all in the agriculture school, which officials say is a close-knit department with an enrollment of about one-thousand.

Stevie Anne Stewart took a class from Ag instructor Evan Parker.

Stevie Anne Stewart, Utah State Senior: "It's extremely tragic. You know that the Ag ambassadors and Ag senators have been going through a lot this week anyway with Ag Week. So it has touched them pretty deeply as well."

There were only 20 people in the USU agriculture club. Because of the crash, the club has been reduced by half.

The accident happened during Agriculture Week at USU. Alumni and families have been in town celebrating since Saturday. Remaining activities have been cancelled.

There is a vigil tonight on campus. at 7 p.m. in the Taggert Student Center.

A similar rollover shocked the school in April 2001 and prompted a government safety warning for large-sized vans.

Six members of the Utah State University men's volleyball club were injured when their Dodge van flipped in April 2001 near Laramie, Wyo.

The club was on its way to a competition in Kansas City when it was caught in a storm. The storm caused dozens of crashes that day, but troopers said speed was more of a factor in the crash.

The USU rollover and similar crashes that killed four women on a trip with the First Assembly of God church in Burkburnett, Texas, and two members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at the University of Central Arkansas prompted a government advisory.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a warning that the vans have a dramatically higher risk of rollovers when fully loaded and only should be operated by experienced drivers.

After the 2001 crash, USU officials implemented a policy that required all USU van drivers, students and university employees attend a one-day driver training program.

It was not immediately clear if Parker had completed the training.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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