West Jordan police are investigating whether a tailgater may have caused a serious accident earlier this week that sent three teenage girls to the hospital, including one who was still in extremely critical condition Friday.
On Wednesday, three girls a 17-year-old and two 16-year-olds had just left Itineris Early College High School, 9301 S. Wights Fort Road on the campus of Salt Lake Community College when they were involved in a traffic accident on 9000 South near 2600 West.
The girls' vehicle apparently swerved into oncoming traffic for no apparent reason, according to initial police reports. All three were unconscious when emergency crews arrived. West Jordan firefighters had to cut the roof off their vehicle to get them out.
Now, investigators are looking into the possibility that another vehicle might have been involved.
Family members of the driver have told police that she says a white Dodge pickup truck with a couple of young adult males started following the girls as soon as they left the campus, said West Jordan Police Sgt. Greg Butler. The boys closely tailgated the girls, making them feel "nervous," according to family members.
The driver of the girls' vehicle told her family that she tried to get out of the way of the truck, swerved to the right, hit the curb and lost control of her car trying to overcorrect, sending it into oncoming traffic, according to Butler.
Officers investigating the crash have determined the girls' car was going between 51 mph and 60 mph when it spun out of control. The speed limit on the road is 40 mph. Butler said the driver said she was trying to get away from the pickup.
Detectives started re-interviewing witnesses Thursday and searched the SLCC parking lot for the pickup. As of Friday, Butler said the theory of a tailgating vehicle was one of several leads being pursued, none of which had been confirmed.
Police do not believe any of the girls were wearing seat belts. The driver and the front-seat passenger regained consciousness after being taken to the hospital and reportedly were talking with family members Thursday.
The girl in the back seat was the most critically injured. Butler said doctors at the hospital were amazed she didn't die at the scene and noted she probably would have if not for an off-duty Murray paramedic who was the first to arrive and stayed with the girl until other emergency crews got there. The girl was not breathing at first, but the off-duty paramedic was able to get her breathing again, Butler said.The girl, whose name has not been released, underwent four to six more hours of surgery Thursday, Butler said. She has two broken vertebrae in her neck and has shown no movement below her waist. She has not been conscious since the accident and needs a machine to help her breathe. She also had her spleen removed and had some surgery on her hip, Butler said.