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Utah Agency Makes Findings on Van Accident

December 23, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A Utah State University van was traveling near 75 mph before a rollover crash that killed eight students and an instructor, a state agency said in disputing the faster speed estimated by the Utah Highway Patrol.

The Division of Risk Management also concluded that none of the passengers was wearing a seat belt before the Sept. 26 crash, agreeing with the patrol’s findings. One of the two students who survived said he and at least four other passengers wore seat belts.

Everyone was ejected when the van rolled down an embankment along Interstate 84 north of Salt Lake City.

The findings by the agency, which handles insurance and liability issues for state government, were reported Friday by the Deseret Morning News. The two survivors and the families of the eight students killed have filed claims against the school and the driver, which are being handled through mediation.

The highway patrol calculated the van’s speed based on a standard math formula and evidence such as the length of skid marks, trooper Jeff Nigbur said.

``We stand firm to our numbers,″ he told the newspaper.

The forensics report states the patrol’s formula was not applicable in this particular accident and that the 100 mph finding is contradicted by the physical evidence. Another driver also said the van was going about 80 mph, the agency’s report said.

The new report was welcome vindication to the family of the driver, instructor Evan Parker.

``It was making it sound like he was responsible when they say he was speeding 95 miles. We feel this report does clear his name,″ his sister Beverly Bailey said.

The liability cap on a state vehicle is $1.1 million, and any settlement would be split among claimants.

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