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Midvale woman dies in wrong-way crash on freeway

(Utah Department of Public Safety)


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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — A Midvale woman who troopers say was driving the wrong way on the freeway for several miles was killed in a head-on collision late Wednesday.

Chanel S. Nielsen, 22, was killed when her 2013 Mazda hatchback collided head-on with a Subaru station wagon driven by Micheal W. McMillian, 27, of South Jordan, on I-215 near 1700 East. It took emergency crews between 30 and 45 minutes to cut McMillian out of his mangled vehicle. He was taken to a local hospital in very critical condition.

The impact of the crash sent the vehicles spinning, causing three other cars to also crash. No one was injured in those incidents, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

Investigators were in the process Thursday of retracing Nielsen's steps to try to figure out what she was doing before she got on the freeway. UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said she was going the wrong way long enough that she should have realized what was happening.

Troopers leaving the UHP's Murray office, 5681 S. 320 West, just after 11:30 p.m., spotted Nielsen driving south in the northbound lanes of I-15, said Royce.

"It's a very difficult situation for us," he said. "The question is, 'How do you stop that person?' When you get a call of a wrong way on the freeway, you're thinking of every possible way to get that vehicle stopped without endangering people anymore."

Royce said troopers would also be endangering other motorists if they attempted to also drive the wrong way on the freeway to catch up with the driver.

Several troopers went down to 7200 South and I-15 to try to get ahead of her. But Nielsen instead went the wrong way down the on-ramp from I-215 to I-15, and continued driving east in the westbound lanes of I-215, Royce said.

He did not know how many other vehicles were on the road at that time, but noted the freeway was not empty.

From the time UHP troopers first spotted Nielsen to the time she crashed, investigators estimated she traveled between five and six miles.

Troopers closed I-215 at 2000 East for several hours while the crash was investigated.

Royce said Thursday that it was still too early to determine whether drugs or alcohol were involved, if Nielsen was suffering from a medical condition or if the wrong way driving was an intentional act.

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Pat Reavy

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