Judge gives $10.5 million to family of Denver woman killed by gate at Arches National Park

A federal judge this week awarded $10.5 million to the family of a Denver woman who was killed when a metal gate at Utah’s Arches National Park swung open, impaled her car and decapitated her.

Esther Nakajjigo, a 25-year-old Ugandan activist who’d moved to Colorado in 2019 to attend the Watson Institute in Boulder, died June 13, 2020, while visiting the park with her husband of two months, Ludovic Michaud.

The couple was driving out of the park and passing by a metal pipe gate when one arm of the gate was dislodged by a gust of wind and swung into the car’s path. In less than a second, the metal pole went through the car’s front windshield and killed Nakajjigo, who was sitting in the passenger seat.

Michaud and Nakajjigo’s parents sued the U.S. government after her death and sought more than $150 million in damages; the government admitted it was at fault, but argued the family was owed $3.5 million.

Senior Judge Bruce S. Jenkins in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah was tasked with determining the amount of monetary damages. He noted in a nine-page order Monday that Nakajjigo lived a remarkable life.

She grew up in Uganda, and at age 17 used her college tuition money to start a nonprofit community health center that provided free reproductive health services to young women. She gained national notoriety in Uganda through a reality TV show that helped child mothers stay in school and develop life skills, and she was recognized by the United Nations for her efforts.

“She was interested in personal accomplishment, in doing good in the world, interested in care, education and opportunity for women and girls in her country of birth and elsewhere,” Jenkins wrote. “She was selfless as she matured.”

After listening to five days of testimony about Nakajjigo’s personality and accomplishments, Jenkins said that it was all but impossible to put a price on her life and potential.

“Michaud was 27 at the time of marriage and his wife’s death,” Jenkins wrote. “Expressions of love, respect, admiration, the talk of raising at least three children are all circumstances, among other things, now lost and incapable of being ever fully replaced. The ability, the energy and the motivation of his new wife was gone in an instant… There is genuinely no satisfactory metric to measure those losses with precision.”

Michaud said in a statement after the ruling that going through the court process has helped him to heal after the trauma of witnessing his wife’s violent death.

“The trial gave me and Essie’s family members an opportunity to tell Essie’s beautiful story,” he said, “and it was so important to me to have the chance to stand up and speak for this amazing woman.”

Jenkins awarded $9.5 million to Michaud, $700,000 to Nakajjigo’s mother and $350,000 to her father.

Sign up to get crime news sent straight to your inbox each day.

Source: Read Full Article