5 of the 6 killed in Utah highway crash were from Honduras
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Five of the six men killed last week when a dump truck collided with a pickup truck on a Utah highway were from Honduras, authorities said Monday.
Utah authorities are coordinating with Honduran consular officials to inform the victim’s families before making their identities public, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street.
They were killed Friday when a dump truck driven by 41-year-old Jamie Don McKenzie crossed a median and hit the oncoming pickup south of Park City.
The Hondurans were passengers in the pickup driven by Efrain O. Cardenas, 62, of Salt Lake City, who also died. Three of the men were ejected and all six died at the scene.
The men were traveling to a work site, authorities said.
Maria Matamoros Castillo, the Honduran minister of communications, said four of the men were from one family, according to a recording provided by the Honduran government. Matamoros said one of the men has a disabled child. She said the Honduran government is helping the families of the victims to get the bodies returned to the Central American country.
Matamoros did not provide the victim’s full names, ages or home cities.
“It’s so sad for our country,” Matamoros said in Spanish.
McKenzie was charged Monday with six counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of driving under the influence causing serious injury as well as allegations involving open containers, reckless driving and speeding, authorities said.
It’s unknown if McKenzie has an attorney. He is set to make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon in the city of Heber, Utah.
McKenzie has a history of alcohol, domestic violence and driving-related offenses, online Utah court records show.
Four days before the fatal crash, McKenzie was cited with following too close in a vehicle.
In August, McKenzie was charged with assault and intoxication in a domestic violence incident. He pleaded guilty to the charges, and took a plea in abeyance in which he agreed to complete alcohol abuse evaluation and take an anger management class.
In July he was charged with having an open alcohol container in a car.
In 2013, McKenzie pleaded no contest to impaired driving and having an open container.
In 2002, McKenzie pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and was sentenced to nine months in jail. That same year, a judge ordered him to get “alcohol counseling” after he took a plea in abeyance on domestic violence-related charges.
When questioned by authorities after Friday’s fatal crash a state highway near Heber, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Park City, McKenzie denied drinking alcohol and refused a blood alcohol test, according to a probable cause statement.
But troopers reported that he smelled of liquor and that they found open containers in the dump truck. McKenzie said he drank whiskey the night before, the document said.
The dump truck was taking dirt to a Park City company on Oct. 19 around midday when authorities say it crossed the median and vaulted a cable barrier, hitting a pickup truck with six people inside traveling the opposite direction, the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a news release.
Before the crash, troopers received multiple calls about the dump truck swerving and cutting off other vehicles.