SPRINGVILLE The escape-artist antics of a speckled pet gerbil were cited as the reason for a collision that demolished two vehicles and sent two people to the hospital with broken legs Tuesday.
Police said that just before 11:30 a.m., a 17-year-old girl was traveling south on state Route 51 in Springville when her pet gerbil escaped from its cage in the front seat and began scrambling around her Jeep Cherokee.
Trying to grab it, she veered off the road and hit a stalled truck on the side of the road, which then slammed into another truck, said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron.
The two trucks, a Ford F-350 and a GMC Sierra 1500, had been nose-to-nose near 1600 South in an attempt to connect jumper cables to the GMC in an effort to start it. Two co-workers, a man and a woman, had been standing between the two trucks when the GMC was rear-ended.
"They were both standing in between with one foot up on the bumper when she hit (them)," Caron said. "She hit, jammed the two (trucks) together and bent the one guy's leg to the point of breaking, launched (the man) into the dirt somewhere, then ... pinned (the woman) in between."
The impact knocked the two trucks about 5 feet down the road, Caron said.
Officers figured the driver's speed upon impact was around 30 mph, although the average speed on that road is 45 to 55 mph, Caron said.
The woman was crunched between the two vehicles. She was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center via medical helicopter while her co-worker was taken to the same hospital by ambulance both with severe compound fractures to one leg each.
The driver of the Jeep Cherokee was wearing her seat belt and was not injured but was taken to the hospital as a precaution, Caron said. She was not cited.
The Houdini-esque critter spent much of Tuesday hanging out at the police station in a little box, waiting for the owner to come claim him, Caron said.
The gerbil was not injured."Pull over and stop before you start reaching for things on the floor," Caron said. "Your natural instinct is to reach down and grab whatever it is you dropped, your wallet, keys, your pet gerbil gets loose. But when you're driving a car, the way to do it is to stop, then take care of business."