TOOELE COUNTY, Utah – The Bureau of Land Management and Utah County Sheriff’s Office are urging caution to off-road motorists after several weekend incidents in Tooele County sent various recreators to the hospital and left one dead.
Off of State Route 73 in Tooele County, it’s not uncommon to hear revving engines from dirt bikes, ATVs side-by-sides and other off-road vehicles, echoing through the trails and nearby canyons.
“This time of year where it’s nice weather and a nice day, there will be a lot of traffic out here,” said Utah County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ray Ormond.
This year in particular, the number of visitors is even higher.
“With the coronavirus having closed down several areas, like the Little Sahara recreation area, we’ve had a lot more people that have come out here to the Five Mile area,” Ormond said.
Matt Gochis with the Bureau of Land Management said they saw roughly 2,000 people Sunday recreating in the Tooele County area. Gochis said that accounted for more people than the agency saw on the Easter holiday.
“Unfortunately, some people go faster than they should on these dirt roads and maybe aren’t following the same rules that they would normally on a paved road -- watching, coming to intersections, slowing down, checking to see if it’s clear -- and that leads to more accidents,” said Ormond.
In just 24 hours – local agencies have seen a number.
Gochis said a 25-year-old man lost his life in an ATV rollover near Five Mile Pass around 7 p.m. Saturday. His passenger was airlifted to the hospital in serious condition.
The identity of the deceased has not been released. As of Sunday night the BLM did not have an update on the passenger’s condition and said an investigation into how the accident happened was underway.
On Sunday, one woman was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition and another taken to the hospital by ambulance, following a separate ATV rollover near Five Mile Pass.
Another incident occurred later in the day Sunday, in which a woman was taken to the hospital by ambulance after she was hit while standing on the side of a trail in Manning Canyon by another rider.
“It hits close to home when someone gets hurt,” local ATV rider Jesse Turner told FOX 13 as he and his family packed in their machines for the day. “You don’t ever want to see that happen with anybody.”
Now, as the pandemic continues to send more and more people to the trails, UCSO and BLM officials hope riders will be cautious.
“Wear a helmet, wear protective gear, make sure that the machine that you’re riding is up to date and taken care of so it doesn’t break down and leave you stranded, and then as you’re riding, treat it like the rest of the roadway. Be cautious, be courteous to other drivers, other riders, don’t try to ride above your ability,” Ormond said.