A West Jordan woman and her unborn child died Friday morning at LDS Hospital after the woman's car skidded off an icy I-215 overpass and plunged 40 feet into the canal below.
Two members of a Salt Lake County snow plowing crew dove into the canal and kept the woman, then unconscious, above water and breathing until emergency crews arrived.Officials began searching the river for other passengers after they spotted a diaper bag and children's clothing in the vehicle. Almost an hour passed before deputies from the Salt Lake County sheriff's department learned the woman's two children were safe with their father, said sheriff's Lt. Bill A. Van Wagenen.
Connie Solomonsen, 25, 3231 W. 6960 South, was due to deliver a baby Friday, Van Wagenen said. But instead, her trip to the hospital was initiated by the accident, a tragic result of Utah's foul weather. She and the baby were pronounced dead at 10:30, said a hospital spokesman.
Officials and eyewitnesses at the scene said Solomonsen's car was eastbound on I-215 when it careened over the barrier at the side of the overpass. The four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Blazer probably landed in the middle of 13th West before it bounced into the adjacent canal at about 5900 South.
Joseph Mitchell and Russ Hansen were just beginning their day's work plowing roads when they spotted the vehicle in the canal with the lights on and notified their dispatcher.
"We saw someone inside," Mitchell said. "We just jumped right in the water."
After wading to the vehicle, the two men determined the unconscious woman was still alive. "We kept her head out of the water and tried to keep her warm with a blanket," he said, speaking also for his partner, who was shivering too violently to speak.
Keeping the woman warm was difficult because there were 11/2 to 2 feet of water inside the vehicle. "Other people stopped to help and gave us more blankets," Mitchell said.
Utah Highway Patrol officials were still investigating the cause of the accident later in the morning.
Until 8:42 a.m. Friday, when the accident was reported, the "Alaskan Clipper" that bullied its way into Utah beginning Wednesday was mostly a frigid nuisance to commuters and homeowners who were greeted by foot-deep snow on their driveways and sidewalks.
A total of 15 inches of snow had fallen by late Friday morning at Brigham Young University, and the Provo Airport was closed.
Dann Shumway, maintenance supervisor, said 14 inches of snow had fallen at the airport by 10:30 a.m. It was snowing about as fast as plows could clear runways.
"We hope to have the airport open to aircraft by this afternoon," Shumway said.
A winter storm warning was issued for a portion of north-central Utah through Friday, said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.
Alder said intermittent snow showers are expected through the weekend. Temperatures Friday and Saturday will be in the upper 20s, with lows expected in the teens. If skies clear, temperatures will drop to single digits, Alder said.
The storm front, which stalled Wednesday near Point of the Mountain and then started moving south Thursday, was south of Milford and Green River by 11 a.m. Friday.
Hill Air Force Base, Farmington and the Salt Lake International Airport received only a trace of snow since Thursday afternoon. Holladay and Sandy had 2 inches by 11 a.m., South Jordan 3, Dugway 15, Draper 7, Spanish Fork 12, American Fork 10, Payson 8, Heber City 9, Vernal 3, and Currant Creek, Wasatch County, 12 inches.
Most northern Utah ski resorts received substantial amounts of new snow since Thursday afternoon. By 11 a.m. Friday, Brighton had 19; Alta, Sundance and Deer Valley, 18; Snowbird, 16; and Park West, 10. Other northern Utah resorts had up to 6 inches.
Highways were snow-packed early Friday in Spanish Fork Canyon. Provo police reported 78 accidents in a 3 1/2-hour period Thursday afternoon, with Orem police handling 70 mishaps during the day.
Only a scattering of weather-related traffic accidents were reported Thursday night along the Wasatch Front.