WENDOVER, Utah — “My stomach dropped,” said Semisi Latu after coming across the crash wreckage on Tuesday night at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
According to Wendover Police, a 2008 Acura driven by an 18-year-old from the Salt Lake area was driving nearly 100 miles per hour when it crashed into a dirt berm.
“I just see this car zooming down really quick and I tell my kids ‘I hope they know there’s a wall barrier a dirt barrier there, all the sudden I hear this thump,” said Latu who was making S’mores nearby with his family. The crash happened after sunset, just around 10 p.m. Latu didn’t know the car actually crashed until he went to check out the area after hearing the sound.
“I could see one of the guys in the back was trying to climb out the window, I helped him out the window,” Latu said. “Then I could hear the front passenger say ‘help me, help me.’ I grabbed him right out of the car and he went and laid down.”
The only person he couldn’t pull from the wreckage was the driver. “He was pinned to the steering wheel, the air bags were all out, but he was just stuck in there the engine was on top of his lap, there was no way I could get him out of that,” said Latu. He said another person drove up as he was tending to the passengers and called 9-1-1.
After he pulled the two passengers from the vehicle, he helped them call their parents. Wendover Police and Wendover Fire arrived on scene shortly after 10 p.m. Firefighters cut open the vehicle to extricate the driver.
“I’m just glad I was there at that time, really just praying for that kid, that driver,” said Latu. All three occupants of the vehicle were life-flighted via helicopter to the University of Utah Health Center.
Latu admitted that he’s still a little traumatized by the situation and didn’t sleep when he and his family got back to the Wasatch Front early Wednesday morning. He’s being hailed a hero on social media. Police told him that there’s a good chance that the crash could have turned out much differently because it was nighttime and Latu was the only one around.
“Just at that point of time, you just don’t think, you just do, you know?” said Latu about jumping in to help. He told Fox13 that he received a phone call from one of the passengers on Wednesday, thanking him for his help. Latu says that both passengers are recovering from injuries. He said he was told that the driver remains in critical condition.
Wendover Police have responded to two crashes at Bonneville Salt Flats in the last year involving the berms. Driving at night is particularly dangerous because the berms can into view extremely fast.
While it’s recommended to watch your speed, it’s also recommended to drive fast enough that your vehicle doesn’t get stuck.
“The salt isn’t as stable as people think,” said Wendover Public Safety Director Ken Quirk. “It’s not like a parking lot.”
The individuals involved in the crash will not receive any criminal charges.