SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Highway Patrol has identified the victims involved in an accident on I-80 after pleading for the public's help in identifying them.
Delphine John, 44, Delilah Ramirez, 20, and Anaya Adame Orozco, 3, of Farmington, were the passengers in a dark blue Chevrolet Suburban that were killed Friday night.
The only occupant of the SUV who survived the crash, Jose Fidel Adame-Orozco, 36, remains in a medically induced coma, and his chances for survival are slim, said Lt. Corey Nye.
"In my 16 years of being in this assignment, this was one of the most hardest, most gruesome collisions of my career," Nye said, adding the force of the wrong-way head-on collision on I-80 was horrific.
The foursome in the 2007 Suburban was traveling westbound on I-80 about 32 miles from the Utah/Nevada border about 6:38 p.m. when a pickup truck headed east in their lane of travel struck them.
Nye said authorities believe the truck's driver, Paul Michael Mumford, 36, of West Jordan, was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. Mumford remains in an area hospital in stable condition, with Nye adding that the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is screening the case for possible charges.
UHP Capt. Doug McCleve said the accident is an opportunity to remind the public how to reduce driving risk.
"I hear people tell me all the time, 'I'm a very good driver. I follow the rules.' The problem is oftentimes in situations like this, you are the victim of somebody else's choice," McCleve said.
"You have a person who made a very poor choice to consume alcohol, get behind the wheel, and as a result an entire family is gone," he said.
McCleve said the accident is still under investigation, but based on initial assessments of the crash, at least a couple of people in the suburban were not wearing seat belts.
"We're begging people to put your seat belt on," he said. "You can minimize the risk to yourself and your family if you just put that seat belt on."
McCleve said even at the speeds they were traveling, Mumford is expected to walk out of the hospital in the next few days.
"And it's likely because he was wearing a seat belt," he said.
McCleve also said in the initial assessment of the crash that there were little to no signs of braking before the collision.
"You've got to anticipate your speed," he said. "We're traveling 70-80 mph. You are traveling so fast and you travel so much distance that you've got to anticipate and look ahead for brake lights, loose debris on the roadway — all of these things to minimize the impact."
McCleve also urged the public to obey speed limits and stay out of the left lane as much as possible.
"If you look at this crash, it happened in the left lane," he said. "When people cross over on the freeway, it's often going to be in that left lane."
Earlier Saturday, UHP called for the public's help in identifying the victims of the crash. Shortly after their plea, a family member contacted UHP and was able to identify the vehicle.
The nature of the collision was such that it was nearly impossible to identify John, Orozco and Ramirez. There were no personal effects in the vehicle for the trio.
Investigators worked through the night Friday trying to track personal information from the registration but also ran into dead ends, Nye said.
"The registration came back to an invalid address, and the people there don't know anyone like our victims or anyone with a vehicle like that," Nye said.
Before the victims were identified Saturday, Nye said the hospital had received no inquiries, and checking more than a dozen possible related residences as far north of Ogden yielded no clues.
As much as the quest for information was frustrating, the violence and brutality of the crash was haunting, Nye said.
"What makes it hard is the kids," he said. "It becomes personal."
Mumford's truck initially was in the eastbound lanes on I-80 traveling so erratically that it prompted several phone calls to emergency dispatchers. At one point, the truck pulled over into an emergency lane, and the driver was confronted by another motorist who was concerned about the erratic driving, Nye said.
The truck then flipped around and was headed west in the westbound lanes, but at some point, the truck once again headed east in those same westbound lanes.
Nye said troopers estimate both vehicles were going about 80 mph at the time of impact, with no evidence of any skid marks.