A mother recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a handful of “state and federal entities” after her 17-year-old son, Chase Clark, drowned back on August 6, 2016. The tragic accident occurred “in Otter Creek Reservoir in Piute County while his family was attending a family reunion.” Shortly after the accident, the mother, Melissa Betley, “hired attorney Eric Olson with the law firm, Eisenberg, Gilchrist & Cutt to investigate the drowning.”
When discussing the accident, Olson said:
“There is a culvert in the pond that draws water out of the pond and it creates a swirling of water. Chase was playing in the water and he got sucked down into the culvert by the whirlpool that’s created by the culvert. The culvert goes under a road and then it spits out. There were extensive lifesaving efforts to try and keep Chase from being sucked under; it wasn’t an immediate situation where he was sucked under and out.”
Despite the extensive lifesaving efforts, however, the lawsuit states that “Clark suffered pre-morbid pain and suffering while he died.” Olson also added, “There were no gates. There were no fences that would have prohibited him from going there or informed him not to. Nor was there any sort of grate or covering that could have been placed over the culvert to prevent someone from being sucked into it.”
While investigating the accident, Olson and his team discovered that “multiple entities were involved in building and maintaining the culvert.” For example, the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corp of Engineers, both federal entities, are named in the lawsuit. Additionally, 22 other state agencies are named in the lawsuit and being sued for the young man’s death, including: State of Utah, Utah Department of Transportation, Piute County, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Otter Creek Reservoir Company, Upper Sevier River Water Conservancy District, and Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation.
Now one would think that after such a tragic accident, changes would be implemented to prevent another horrific situation from happening. According to Olson, though, “no one has fixed the problem by putting up signage around the culvert or a cover for it.” He added:
“Unfortunately, as of this last summer, no changes have been made and it has been about a year since the drowning had occurred. It was disappointing to see no sign, no grate, no fence put up to tell people not to play in that area, and there is a state park in that area, right down in the area, and the culvert is right next to a road that’s next to ATV users.”
At the moment, Mrs. Betley requested “a jury trial for both the state and federal lawsuits” and hopes the lawsuit will ensure that other families don’t have to face a similar tragedy.