High winds and snowy roads were the cause of two crash-related fatalities in Tooele County on or near Interstate 80.
Rylee Larkin of South Jordan died Wednesday night when her sedan, which was blocking the on ramp to westbound I-80 from SR-201 after a single-vehicle accident, was struck from behind by an SUV, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Larkin, 20, had lost control on the slick roadway and collided with a concrete barrier on the ramp before being hit by the SUV around 7 p.m.
Alcohol or other impairment is not considered to be a factor in either crash, according to UHP.
A UHP officer parked to assist closure of the intersection of SR-201 and SR-202 near the fatal accident was also struck by a Chevy Cobalt around 8:20 p.m. The officer was trapped inside her vehicle by the collision to the driver’s side of her patrol car. She was transported to an area hospital in fair condition with a cut to her head and leg injuries, UHP reported.
The Cobalt was traveling westbound at excessive speed and ignored the traffic cones and the activated overhead lights on the officer’s vehicle, UHP said.
Dangerous driving conditions during the severe wind storm on Tuesday spawned numerous crashes, including a fatal accident that killed a Layton man.
Robert John Eggli, 65, died from injuries sustained in a 17-vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon, which included six semi-trailers and injured 25 individuals, according to the UHP. The pile-up occurred around 12:20 p.m. near mile marker 68 in the Delle area.
The severe wind storm blew dirt and sand, which dropped visibility to essentially zero on I-80, the UHP said. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 62 mph in Wendover and 82 mph east of Dugway Proving Ground as the cold front moved through.
An initial minor accident between a car and a semitrailer created a blockage in the driving lane, UHP Sgt. Bob Gutierrez said. With such low visibility in the area, the single accident triggered a chain reaction of crashes, he said.
The exact sequence of events that led to the fatal accident involving Eggli’s car are still under investigation, according to the UHP. Eggli was not wearing a seatbelt in the accident, Gutierrez said.
Approximately eight ambulances were at the scene of the accident to transport 18 injured motorists.
A total of 11 tow trucks and four large wreckers were involved in removing vehicles and tractor-trailers involved in the wreck, UHP reported. Sustained high winds further increased the amount of time required to clean up the large accident.
As a result of the accident and continued high winds, the westbound lanes of I-80 were closed between the Nevada border and the Lake Point exit. The westbound lanes were reopened around 7 p.m.
Eastbound lanes along the same stretch of I-80 were also closed to all vehicles between about 3:54 p.m. and 6:43 p.m., according to the Utah Department of Transportation.
The high winds and low visibility were the primary cause of a number of accidents Tuesday, Gutierrez said.
“Those two combinations wreaked havoc across I-80,” he said.
There were about three to four additional minor accidents spawned by the high wind conditions in the county, Gutierrez said. The blowing sand and dust created conditions where vehicles traveling at freeway speeds would enter a cloud of debris with only a few feet of visibility, he said.
Many times crashes occurred when motorists did not slow down as visibility decreased, Gutierrez said.