UPDATED: Saturday morning SUV accident turns fatal in Warner Valley

Emergency responders at a distance addressing fatal jeeping accident in Warner Valley area of Washington County, Utah, Sept. 22, 2012 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
Emergency responders at a distance addressing fatal jeeping accident in Warner Valley area of Washington County, Utah, Sept. 22, 2012 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – An SUV went over a cliff sometime before 5:15 a.m. today in the hills of the Warner Valley area of Washington County, off a big mesa near the Washington and Hurricane city borders.

Capt. Josh Thayn of Washington City Fire and Public Safety said one female survivor placed a 911 call from a cell phone at 5:15 a.m.

“What we found,” Thayn said, “was that an SUV-type vehicle was four wheeling and left the roadway and rolled multiple times. There were ejections and two people were deceased on scene and one was alive and we life flighted (her) to Dixie Regional Medical Center.”

Thayn said the transported victim had neck and back injuries.

This was quite the intricate event, Thayn said. Because it was early morning, there was lack of light and it was very high up, it was hard to locate and difficult to get to. Responders had to four-wheel drive, hike, transverse down the mesa, employ minor high angle rescue techniques.

One of the deceased had to be extricated from the vehicle. The other was ejected, as was the survivor.

The response was a unified response command with Washington City Fire and Public Safety, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Washington County Search and Rescue, Dixie Ambulance and Life Flight.  Thayn said  several times that everyone worked well together.

Decimated SUV involved in the accident in the Warner Valley area of Washington County, Utah, Sept. 22, 2012 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

The vehicle has been left where it landed, some 200-300 feet off the mesa. It is on Bureau of Land Management land and Thayn said the BLM will  deal with the vehicle.  Early statements from the scene and by scanner identified the vehicle as a white jeep, but Thayn said the make and model are unknown.

Cause of the accident is under investigation.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m. Statement issued by Washington County Undersheriff Bart G. Bailey is set forth in its entirety as received, below:

At approximately 5:15 A.M. on 09/22/2012 Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies, Washington City Police Officers, Washington City Firefighters and BLM Rangers were dispatched on a single vehicle accident, off road, south of Washington Dam Road.  The accident had been called in by one of the accident victims who was disoriented and unsure of their exact location.  The location of the accident was discovered shortly after 6:00 A.M.  It appeared that a single vehicle had gone over a cliff near Warner Valley.  Washington County Search and Rescue and Lifeflight were called to assist.  One male and two female accident victims were found.    Deputies and Firefighters at the scene determined that two of the occupants of the vehicle were deceased.  A third injured occupant was recovered by Search and Rescue and Washington City fire personnel and transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center by Lifeflight.  The Utah State Medical Examiner’s office responded to the scene to determine cause of death.  A Washington County Sheriff’s Office accident investigator is currently investigating the circumstances of the accident.  Names of the surviving and deceased victims are being withheld pending identification and notifications of their families.  Recovery of the accident vehicle will be coordinated through the BLM.


Hillside from a distance where fatal jeeping accident occurred in Warner Valley area of Washington County, Utah, Sept. 22, 2012 | Photo by and courtesy of Marshall Connelly, St. George News


St. George News photographer Dave Amodt contributed to this story.

Updated in full: 1:14 p.m. Sept. 22, 2012, per interview with Thayn.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Knine September 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

    So sad to hear that and I pray for the families and their loss. I have crawled out of upside down Jeeps in my younger years and I was reminded….. there go I.

  • Dan Lester September 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I bet they’ll find that “alcohol and/or drugs may have been involved” when they analyze it further.

  • Kyrie Chapman September 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Do they know the names of the victims??? i am so worried about it being one of my friends..

    • Joyce Kuzmanic September 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      We are so touched by your concern, Kyrie.
      Neither authorities nor we release identities until proper notifications are made.
      We have given you what we can respectfully offer at this point.

  • ken September 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Is there any reason to be four wheeling in the dark? Even if you are familiar with the area extremely dangerous and sadly this turned tragic!

  • Dan Lester September 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    See my comment above, Ken. And I say that as one who is a recovering alcoholic.

    • Cylie Campbell May 19, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      I do not to this day appreciate your comment on the alcohol or drugs. My aunt was the woman who was killed and you are an ignorant jerk. You have offended our whole family with that heartless comment! She died 4 days before my birthday and reading that comment then stung and to this day it still does! You need to learn to stop and think before you say something so insulting and rude! You need to learn to walk in others shoes.

  • Sam September 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Dan Lester,
    Congratulations on being ignorant and rude. Whether or not alcohol or drugs were related, people lost their lives and their families are hurting. If you don’t have anything nice to say DON’T.

  • Murat September 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    People die all the time. It’s not a big deal and you’re increasing your risk for cancer by getting all worked up over comments. Dan and Ken bring up a valid point, which is that intelligent, sober people would not be operating an SUV in a recreational manner at night in this sort of terrain. I will point out that we don’t know the circumstances here, so it’s all just speculation, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Dan Lester September 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I’m neither ignorant nor rude, thank you very much. Yes, people are hurting. That goes without saying. However, these tragedies can be a good opportunity for others to learn and hopefully avoid repeating this behavior. Even if alcohol or drugs were not involved, others can learn that four wheeling in the pitch black in rough areas with cliffs and other dangers is not the thing to do.

    How do I know this? I was young once and did things just as stupid, with and without alcohol assisting, and fortunately survived several occasions when I shouldn’t have.

    These people, whoever they are, will be prayed for at church in the morning, and already have been in our household. May the men rest in peace, and may the woman recover successfully.

    If you wish to discuss it further, I’m [email protected]

  • PJ September 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    reading back I can’t see anything ignorant, nor rude in dan Lester’s first post, or his second or third. However, It was sort of a Capt Obvious observation on his part. I’d venture to say that everyone reading this sort of guessed alcohol and/or drugs might be related. Yeah, that’s fair to say, but somethimes it doesn’t hurt to leave it alone until you know for sure.
    Whatever the reason… no one deserved to die or be injured. If they did, then there should in all fairness be a lot less of us who played the odds and made it when we were younger.
    My heart goes out to those who were lost and the one who was injured and their famlies.

  • San September 23, 2012 at 2:34 am

    It’s irresponsible to speculate on why an accident happened when you know nothing about it, just the observations of one who was neither responsible or intoxicated when my own SUV rolled multiple times (years ago). I wonder now whether or not people speculated the same about me.

    Prayers o the families and the survivor. To her, I hope someone says “It’s over, you have already survived it…you were meant to survive…move forward and feel safe again.”

  • nathan September 23, 2012 at 7:43 am

    There is an article on ksl that has witnesses saying that the people involved in this accident were drinking with them at a campsite four hours before the accident.

  • Jake September 23, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Murat and Dan,
    Thanks for barging into an inconsolable moment for the families of these victims and sharing your brazen remarks. When families are grieving for the loss of their loved ones, they do not need to hear comments like, “I bet they’ll find that alcohol and/or drugs may have been involved” or “People die all the time. It’s not a big deal”. I ask you to please refrain from comments like these; they don’t help. It would be respectful and courteous to talk about your ideas amongst your own colleagues and not on a local website where family and friends are looking and mourning.

    May we pray for these victims and their families, that they will all be watched over and comforted.

  • Deborah Skouson September 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Regardless of the choices and circumstances leading up to the event, the sad fact is that three precious girls lost their daddy in that accident. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

    • L.M. September 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      As well as a very fine young man.

  • Omari September 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Let’s show some respect and common courtesy here, people!

  • Mandy December 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    My grandfather died from injuries sustained from when his vehicle tumbled down a cliff. In my grief, I read the news report. Some ignorant person on the internet made flippant comments (much like the ones above) that the accident was probably due to my grandfather’s age and that all old people should have their licenses taken away. His age was not the cause of the accident and I was angry. I would have been angry even if his age had played a factor. People do die all the time and one day, it’ll be your loved one dying. Hopefully, you can just ‘get over it’ since it is so common place, but most people are not capable of that when feeling so much loss. I’m sorry for those who have lost their loved ones, regardless of the cause.

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