This has been a public safety hazard. So the case is obviously about that hazard and about what needs to be done and who is responsible for it. —Jeffrey Eisenberg, Glasser family's attorney
SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake County jury will have to decide whether a Sandy family deserves compensation from West Jordan for a fatal kayaking accident four years ago.
As part of a five-day trial, jurors are taking a close look at a major public safety hazard on the Jordan River as the result of the lawsuit.
Joseph Glasser, 49, and Kelly Glasser, 51, began kayaking on the Jordan River in South Jordan on Aug. 1, 2010. They eventually floated under a bridge near Winchester Street (6600 South) where a 2-foot drop plunges into foamy, circulating water. After they went over the small waterfall, they became caught in the undertow and were trapped underwater.
They had put in the river near 11400 South and should have seen danger signs warning them to get out of the river, but one warning sign in the area that day was covered up with brush.
In a lawsuit that went to trial in Utah’s 3rd District Court on Monday, family members of the Glassers said West Jordan is responsible for the kayakers' deaths because the city did not clear the sign.
"This has been a public safety hazard,” said Jeffrey Eisenberg, the Glasser family's attorney. “So the case is obviously about that hazard and about what needs to be done and who is responsible for it.”
But the attorney for West Jordan argued that city administrators did not have control of the signs or the land and cannot be held responsible. While West Jordan built the Jordan River Parkway and maintains the trail, the city’s attorney said the sign was installed and maintained by Murray, which also owns the pipeline.
Murray and the state have already settled lawsuits with the Glassers.
Jeff Salt, Great Salt Lake Keeper executive director and a Utah waterway watchdog, said five people have died there over the years. Salt said he tried for nearly a decade to get action from all stakeholders to safeguard that spot in the river. His testimony and jurisdiction issues will be key elements of the case, which is expected to last a week.
There has been plenty of discussion about a portage where boaters could carry their canoes and kayaks around the pipeline. Murray, Salt Lake County and the state have entered into an interlocal agreement to design and build a structure at the 6600 South location to make it safer.
In addition, Murray and Salt Lake County have entered into another interlocal agreement to design and build a portage around the 6600 South hazard and another hazard in Murray, according to Doug Hill, the city's public services director.
Family members of the Glassers and their attorneys said they want to talk about those issues when this case is over.
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