Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against UDOT

Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against UDOT

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John Hollenhorst ReportingBelinda Barenbrugge, Jenna’s Mother: “Somebody has to answer to this negligence, is the way I feel. Some justice has to come out of this.”

The family of a teenage traffic victim says the state Department of Transportation has been negligent, and they're going to court with a wrongful death suit. The issue? Rainwater routinely puddling up on Interstate 215.

The fatal accident took place last August, but the family of 17-year-old Jenna Barenbrugge says a dangerous hydroplaning situation has existed for years, and may have played a role in dozens of accidents.

It was directly under the 13th East overpass in I-215 that Jenna Barenbrugge lost her life. She hydroplaned on rainwater, which had built up on the surface of I-215, and her car veered out of control. Jenna's car piled into a bridge support column, killing her instantly. It was the second accident in the same area that rainy evening last August.

Now Jenna's family is filing a wrongful death suit, but they say it's not for the money.

Belinda Barenbrugge, Jenna's Mother: “Who could put a price on the life of a child? I could not put a price.”

They hope the lawsuit will push UDOT to fix I-215's water problems. And in fact, a fix is in the works. Surveyors are trying to figure out why the highway doesn't drain properly.

Belinda Barenbrugge: “After the accident it was amazing to me the amount of people that came to me and said, ‘I have been involved in an accident there.’”

U.D.O.T. admits the highway has either settled or worn down. They're not sure why, but it's flatter than usual.

Brent Wilhite, U.D.O.T. spokesman: “We’re studying the area to see if there’s a better way to make water drain from the roadway much quicker.”

U.D.O.T. statistics show there are about 150 accidents each year on the stretch of I-215 from 3rd East to 20th East. That's about three a week.

Belinda Barenbrugge: “I just think that so many accidents in one little spot is unbelievable.”

But UDOT says the accident rate is comparable to other freeways when traffic volume is factored in. And most accidents occur in dry conditions.

Brent Wilhite: “And in the last five years there have been only two fatalities. That’s still two fatalities, that’s not great, but relatively speaking, it’s not that bad of a section.”

But Jenna's family says there is a problem and UDOT needs to fix it.

Belinda Barenbrugge: “My hope is that other people will not have to suffer the way my family has suffered.”

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