Seven teenagers were packed into the Honda Accord, hurtling around “extremely dangerous” Utah mountain passes at 70 miles an hour — and then suddenly, just after midnight Thursday, the 16-year-old driver lost control, according to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
The sedan flew off State Route 39 near Monte Cristo after the driver failed to make a turn, rolling several times and tumbling 180 feet down a ravine before landing in a large tree. It had been traveling 30 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit, deputies estimated — and with two teens in the trunk and only four wearing their seat belts.
But before any of the Ogden, Utah, area teenagers could call 911, one of the injured teens had to crawl back up a hillside — in the middle of the night — until his or her phone got reception, deputies said.
Four helicopters swooped in to airlift four injured juveniles out, taking them to area hospitals. Three others were rushed to hospitals by ambulance, deputies said. The teenagers ranged in age from 14 to 17, according to the sheriff’s office.
The extreme terrain in the area northeast of Salt Lake City made the rescue all the more challenging: An elaborate rope system had to be used to rappel down to the crash survivors and then carry them back up, according to the sheriff's office.
One female survivor is in “extremely critical condition,” the sheriff’s office said. That teen was one of the two riding in the trunk, KUTV reports.
The other six range in condition from minor to critical at last check, deputies said. Authorities are still investigating the crash. The teen driver does not face charges at this point.
Photos of the wreckage show just how severe the crash was: The front of the car is totaled, folded in like an accordion. The roof is tattered. Windows are knocked out. The sides are dented in. The trunk area — where two of the teens were as the car launched down the 180-foot ravine — is torn up as well, photos show.
The sheriff’s office said it’s a tragic reminder to slow down.
“Weber County has several mountain passes with many curves that can be extremely dangerous if the advisory or speed limit is not followed,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. “This is an unfortunate and tragic incident that could have been avoided. Our thoughts go out to all the victims and their families for a speedy recovery.”