Family Of Woman Decapitated At Arches National Park Files $270 Million Claim
The family of a Ugandan women’s rights activist filed a $270 million wrongful death and personal injury claim against the National Park Service after she was decapitated by a loose gate at Utah’s Arches National Park.
The woman, Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo, who is originally from Uganda, and her husband Ludovic “Ludo” Michaud, 26, were driving to go get ice cream while camping on June 13 when strong winds swung an unsecured metal gate through the couple’s car “like a hot knife through butter,” according to the administrative claim, filed last month. The gate reportedly narrowly missed Michaud, who is originally from Paris, though he now lives in Denver.
“We just don’t want this to ever happen again,” he said in an interview Thursday. The couple was had just been married in March.
Michaud is seeking $240 million in damages and Nakajjigo’s parents are seeking $30 million.
The attorney for Michaud and Nakajjigo’s parents Deborah Chang wrote in the claim that the gates the NPS uses have “spear-like sharp ends,” and are known to swing into roads. Chang claimed that employees should have known that “winds strong enough to carve stone are certainly strong enough” to blow a metal gate into the roadway.
The attorney also claimed that the federal government had already known about the dangers of loose gates, citing an incident from 1980, where a man riding in the back of a pickup truck was impaled by an unsecured gate in California’s Stanislaus National Forest.
“For want of an $8.00 basic padlock, our world lost an extraordinary warrior for good; a young woman influencer who was destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, Philanthropist Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey,” the claim said. If the claim is not approved, Chang intends to pursue a formal lawsuit.
According to the biography included in the claim, Nakajjigo used her university tuition money to open a nonprofit reproductive health center for girls and young women. She had received many accolades for her humanitarian work, including being named Uganda’s Ambassador for women and girls and being awarded the a Woman Achiever Award from the United Nations Population Fund when she was 17.
Michaud said he wants to continue on his wife’s legacy. “She’s got quite a few projects started,” he said. “We need to make sure those projects survive after her.”