STANSBURY PARK, Tooele County — Three adults were killed and four others were ejected and critically injured after a collision sent a minivan carrying a church group into oncoming traffic.
The minivan, part of a church group of three vehicles traveling north to Salt Lake City from Dugway, was attempting to merge from the slow lane into the fast lane on state Route 36 near Stansbury Park when the back of the minivan struck a sport utility vehicle, which caused the minivan to lose control, said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Evan Kirby.
"After it lost control, it slid into oncoming traffic and was T-boned on the passenger side," Kirby said.
The minivan was hit by a Subaru, killing both of its occupants on impact.
There were five teens, ages 13-17, in the minivan and two adults. The van's adult passenger was killed and four of the teenagers were thrown from the vehicle. They were transported by medical helicopters to hospitals in Salt Lake City and Tooele in critical condition. The other two passengers were also hospitalized.
"The children that were ejected were ejected quite a long ways," Kirby said. "At this point, I would estimate 20 to 50 feet."
Kirby said some of the passengers were wearing seat belts but he could not confirm how many.
No identities were released Sunday.
SR-36 was shut down following the 3:15 p.m. accident and remained closed for five hours. Three helicopters were sent to the scene, along with paramedics and ambulances. Kirby said officers appreciated members of the community who also stopped to help with the children.
Caroline Bhattarai said she passed the scene just after the accident occurred.
"A lot of chaos, a lot of chaos," she said, describing the scene as "gruesome." She said there were car parts everywhere and many drivers in the area stopped to provide assistance.
"I would honestly say about 25 people just swarmed the vehicles trying to get people treated," she said, "trying to figure out where (the passengers) were."
Kirby said the roads were wet at the time. He did not know the speed of the cars before the accident, but the speed limit in the area is 60 mph.
"This is just a tragic accident," Kirby said. "You hate to see things like this, but it's just a tragic accident. It's just a small mistake with a huge impact."