Energy & Environment

Park Service faces $270M suit after death in Arches National Park

The National Park Service (NPS) is facing a $270 million wrongful death claim from the family of a Ugandan women’s rights activist after her death at Arches National Park, The Associated Press reported Friday.  

Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo, a 25-year-old newlywed, was visiting the Utah park with her husband Ludovic Michaud to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their first date. 

The two left to get ice cream when a metal gate blew closed with such force, it sliced through their car, decapitating Nakajjigo.

Michaud is seeking $240 million in damages while the Nakajjigo family is seeking $30 million. His lawyers say they will file a lawsuit if NPS doesn’t agree to the claim.

NPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nakajjigo was given a Woman Achiever Award at 17 after she used her college tuition money to start a health care center, offering free reproductive health services for women. According to the AP, she received numerous other humanitarian awards and created a popular reality television program aimed at empowering young mothers.

“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 states.

The claim filed by Michaud’s lawyers described the gate as being held open by a “flimsy metal tab” that was “worn down and rounded.”

It points to a similar claim filed in 1980 after a man was impaled by an unsecured gate in California’s Stanislaus National Forest.

Tags Lawsuit National Park Service Oprah Winfrey Utah

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