ST. GEORGE — The holiday weekend got off to a tragic start Friday on Utah's freeways.
Susan Clark, 53, and Steven Clark, 55, of Provo, were killed early Friday when a 40-foot-long motor home hauling a Jeep Wrangler crashed through one garage and into another that was connecting two condominiums, located at 296 E. 900 South, in St. George.
"When I opened the garage, there was a Jeep that didn't belong to me in the garage," said homeowner Tim Wiley. "It was all cloudy and dusty and stuff."
Wiley said the location of his home and its proximity to the freeway always worried him. He was in the bedroom of his home, about 10 feet from the point of impact, when the motor home crashed through his backyard, demolished a bathroom and passed right through his garage and into the duplex across the street.
No one inside either residence was injured, according to police.
Susan Clark is believed to have been driving the RV and her husband, Steven Clark, was a front seat passenger when a front tire blew about 5:45 a.m., causing the oversize vehicle and trailer to veer off I-15 and into the neighborhood below, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
There were eight additional passengers in the motor home at the time of the crash, including a 22-year-old male and seven females, ages 3, 5, 13, 15, 18, 23 and 23. Police have not released the conditions of the additional passengers, but they were all taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.
UHP trooper Joe Pastor said vehicles have accidentally come off the freeway in the same location before, but "it isn't the norm." He said the RV traveled approximately 300 feet, through a barrier fence, down a dirt embankment, across a frontage road, through one home and into the other, without overturning.
"It pretty much split the homes in two where the garages are at," Pastor said. "There is an extensive amount of damage done to the vehicle and both homes."
He said the motor home also struck two parked vehicles on its destructive path. Debris filled the interior of the RV and injured passengers were retrieved through a large side window.
The accident marks the first fatalities for the beginning of what is referred to by the UHP and Utah Department of Transportation as the "100 Deadliest Days" of travel on Utah roads.
Automobile fatalities tend to increase an average of 35 percent between the Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, according to UDOT data.
So far this year, deaths from vehicle-related accidents are trending downward. Fifty-three fatalities had been reported prior to Friday's accident. UDOT reports an average of 96 fatalities occur annually during the "100 Deadliest Days."
"As we go into the deadliest time of year on Utah's roadways, it is critical that motorists follow traffic laws, always wear their seat belts and don't drive drowsy, distracted, aggressively or impaired," said Robert Hull, director of traffic and safety at UDOT. "If we all do our part, a majority of these fatalities can be prevented."3 comments on this story
UHP has scheduled officers to work 300 extra shifts this weekend to focus on spotting impaired drivers, speeding, seat belt violations, and distracted or drowsy drivers in the state's most dangerous driving locations.
"Past history has shown us where the main problem areas are across the state so we can focus more troopers there to help patrol and keep the public safe," said UHP Superintendent Daniel Fuhr.
UDOT offers free tools for drivers to check road conditions prior to their departure at www.udot.utah.gov/traffic.