SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An 11-year-old girl was among six victims of a fiery, head-on collision that occurred during one of Utah’s deadliest Fourth of July weekends in the past two decades, authorities said Monday.
The young Esmerelda Velasquez, of Salt Lake City, was in a minivan that struck a sports car while trying to pass another car, the Utah Highway Patrol said in a news release.
Three others from the minivan died. They were Samantha Blueeyes, 23; Michael Blueeyes, 22; and Alfreda Bowman, 28, all from Salt Lake City.
The two who died in the sports car were: Cody Farrabee, 22, of Queen Creek, Arizona; and Rheana Hazel, 23, of Las Vegas.
A seventh person, who was in the minivan, also is in very critical condition from Sunday’s crash, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said. He is Travis Howland, 24, of Salt Lake City.
The wreck happened on U.S. Route 191 near Monticello, about 285 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The sports car caught fire, killing both occupants at the scene. Five people were in the minivan, and three of them died at the scene. One other victim died later at the hospital.
It came two days after another head-on collision involving a wrong-way driver on Interstate 80 in northern Utah killed three members of a family.
All told, there were at least 11 confirmed traffic deaths in the state from Friday through Sunday of the holiday weekend, said Gary Mower, a research analyst for the Utah Highway Safety Office. Several other people remain in critical condition.
The deadliest July Fourth weekend since the state began keeping track 20 years ago was in 2008, when 12 people died over four days. Last year, 10 people died over five days, Mower said.
The rate of highway deaths around the Fourth of July ranks the highest of any of the holidays, with 1.4 fatalities per day over the past 10 years, Utah statistics show
Royce said this year’s two major crashes should serve as a stark reminder that people need to drive more carefully.
Impairment is suspected in the I-80 crash, and a bad decision to try to pass another car with not enough room caused the US-91 collision, Royce said.
“If they would have been a little more patient,” he said. “Both of these crashes were entirely avoidable.”
In the I-80 crash, authorities say Paul Mumford, 36, of West Jordan, inexplicably turned around Friday night and drove the wrong way before colliding with an SUV driven by Jose Adame-Orozco, 36, of Farmington.
Three passengers in the SUV died at the scene: Adame-Orozco’s girlfriend, Delphine John, 44, and her daughters, Deliah Ramirez, 18, and Anaya Orozco, 3.
Mumford has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, manslaughter and driving under the influence, court records show.