Jeep Hits, Injures 3 Deseret Morning News Staffers

Jan 24, 2004

A car struck three Deseret Morning News employees on a sidewalk near the newspaper's offices in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning, January 24, critically injuring two of them, according to the News. Assistant photo editor Chuck Wing, photographer Keith Johnson, Web developer Gary McKellar, and News employee Mark Reece were walking on a sidewalk near the newspaper's offices when they were struck by a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a 75-year-old man. Reece said it looked like the driver of the SUV was trying to parallel park when the vehicle jumped the curb at a high rate of speed, plowed over a parking meter, and then hit the men.

Wing and McKellar were pinned between the car and a building wall, according to a Deseret Morning News story written by Pat Reavy, and Reece and Johnson were pushed out of the way. Wing and McKellar were taken to LDS Hospital were they were initially reported to be in extremely critical condition. By that night they were upgraded to serious and fair conditions, respectively.

[Johnson: Deseret News photojournalist Keith Johnson is attended by EMS workers after the Jeep dragged him into the street. Photograph by Francisco Kjolseth - Salt Lake Tribune]

Wing, 36, had his leg amputated above the knee, according to family members. The newspaper reported that McKellar, 38, had several hours of surgery to repair his right leg. Johnson, 34, was taken to the University of Utah Medical Center where he was treated and released Tuesday night with a cast on a fractured left ankle. The newspaper says that a trust fund has been established for all three men at the Key Bank.

Reavy reported that Wing's wife, Julie, told photography editor Ravell Call on Tuesday night that Wing was out of surgery, awake and talking, and she described him as "amazingly upbeat, considering what has happened."

Reece said that after the initial impact with the men and the building, the driver got out of the Jeep and appeared to be in shock. Reece told police that the car was "revving pretty hard" before the ignition was turned off. Reavy reported that Johnson, Reece, and a bystander then tried to move the Jeep and that Johnson finally reached inside the Jeep and started the engine again. Reece said Johnson was able to put the car in reverse but that it raced backward, dragging Johnson 10 to 15 feet before he fell off. The Jeep stopped after crashing into the entrance of a parking structure.

[Worried Coworkers: Deseret News employees Marjorie Cortez (left) and Christie Jackson comfort each other after their coworkers were struck by an SUV andpinned between the truck and the building. Photograph by Francisco Kjolseth - Salt Lake Tribune]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt Lake City police are investigating whether the vehicle malfunctioned or the driver was at fault, according to the newspaper, but the police have said that at this time the cause of the accident is unknown. The driver, whose name was withheld by police, was described only as a "75-year-old local businessman" who was questioned but not arrested. Police described the driver as "extremely upset" by the accident. Salt Lake City police have a standard procedure of drawing blood samples for toxicology testing in auto-pedestrian accidents, but a police spokesperson said that there were no immediate signs of alcohol or drug use as a factor in the accident and that toxicology results will take several days to be finalized.

Wing has been an NPPA member since March, 1987. McKellar was a member until 2001 and Johnson was a member until September, 2003. Wing has been with The Deseret News since 1997, according to the newspaper, and Johnson interned there in 2000 and returned as an employee in 2001. McKellar has been with the News since 1986 and was a photojournalist for the newspaper before making the transition to Web developer.

[Aftermath: A police accident investigator photographs the Jeep where it came to rest inside the entrance to a parking garage. Photograph by Francisco Kjolseth - Salt Lake Tribune][Aftermath: A parking meter knocked down by a speeding Jeep on its way onto the sidewalk where it struck three Deseret News employees. Photograph by Francisco Kjolseth - Salt Lake Tribune]