Six people, including the grandson of a Moab business owner, were killed, and a seventh remains in very critical condition at an area hospital, after a van carrying five occupants northbound on U.S. Highway 191 crashed head on with a southbound sports car just north of Monticello on Sunday afternoon, July 6.
Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) Sgt. Todd Royce said on Monday morning that based on the investigation to this point, and also on witness reports, that the fatal accident was the result of a careless passing attempt by the van’s driver.
The accident happened at about 2 p.m. in the Peter’s Hill area of San Juan County at Mile Marker 81, about 13 miles north of Monticello. Upon impact from the van, the car caught fire and its momentum carried it down an embankment. The car burned completely and its occupants, 22-year-old Cody R. Farabee of Queen Creek, Ariz., and his pregnant fiancée, 23-year-old Rheana Hazel, perished in the vehicle.
Cody Farabee was the grandson of Richard Farabee, Sr., and nephew of Ryan Farabee, the owners of Farabee’s Jeep Rentals. The family originally came to Moab in 1989.
Speaking to the Moab Sun News, Cody Farabee’s father Richard Farabee, Jr., said that the extended family had all gathered in Moab for a Fourth of July reunion that had become something of an annual tradition.
“We all had a great couple of days,” he said. “We went river-rafting, we went to the movies together, watched fireworks and went out to dinner.”
Richard described his son as a young man who had everything going for him.
“He recently graduated from college with a physical therapy degree and had also been working full-time, and was recently engaged.”
Cody Farabee was an especially accomplished athlete. He had been a state diving champion and went on to coach other divers, including his brother Bryce who would go on to become an elite athlete himself.
Richard said his son was an exceptional gymnast from a young age.
“When he was 3-years-old he started doing back-flips on the bed” he said. “We didn’t know whether to spank him, or encourage it!”
Cody would go on to compete in trampoline and tumbling at the highest levels, even representing the U.S. in Russia at the world championships.
Richard described his son as “the light and life of every get-together. He had a really big heart, and opened his house up to everyone.”
Richard said Cody’s most proud recent accomplishment in life was his relationship with his fiancee Rheana Hazel.
“She was sweet and kind, and family was important to her,” Richard said. “When Cody was younger he struggled at times, but Rheana truly completed him.”
Friends flocked in droves to Farabee’s page to offer condolences. Their accounts suggest that Farabee always had a smile on his face and was always willing to help out a friend.
While attending college, Hazel also taught at Children’s Learning Adventure in Mesa, Ariz., before leaving to teach at Tutor Time in Queens Creek, Ariz.
The Sunday afternoon collision also killed the other vehicle’s driver, 23-year-old Salt Lake City resident Samatha Blueeyes, as well as three of the van’s four passengers: 28-year-old Alfreda A. Bowman, 22-year-old Michael A. Blueeyes and 11-year-old Esmerelda Velasquez. The lone survivor to this point, 24-year-old Travis L. Howland, of Salt Lake City, remains in very critical condition at an area hospital, Royce said on Tuesday morning, July 8.
Samatha and Michael Blueeyes were siblings and Bowman was their aunt, according to their Facebook pages. Samatha Blueeyes graduated from Highland High School in Salt Lake City in 2009 and Michael Blueeyes did so in 2010. From her Facebook account, Samatha Blueeyes was an avid basketball fan, whose favorite player was Kobe Bryant. Michael Blueeyes worked as a custodian at The Boeing Company.
According to Bowman’s Facebook page, she was originally from Kirtland, N.M., where she still had several relatives.
Royce compared the accident to another that took place on Friday, July 4 on Interstate 80 between Tooele and Wendover, in which a reportedly intoxicated Paul Mumford was driving the wrong way down the Interstate and collided with an SUV, killing a mother and two children while also injuring a fourth occupant. Mumford was charged Monday, July 7 with three counts of first-degree murder and alternative counts of second-degree manslaughter or automobile homicide for the crash.
“If we look at these two crashes, they were preventable,” Royce said. “Both involved bad decisions. One was a bad lane change and the other was driving impaired.”
Royce advised motorists to slow down and a take the extra time to get to their destinations safely. He also stressed the importance of wearing seat belts.
According to a press release, this accident was one of 126 that the UHP responded to during the Independence Day weekend, but there were no fatalities in the other 124 accidents.
The UHP has responded to at least 18 fatal accidents since Memorial Day, which kicks off what the agency calls the “100 Deadliest Days,” continuing until Labor Day. The agency has stepped up its patrol on Utah highways, looking out for impaired or distracted drivers, aggressive drivers or people not wearing their seat belts.
11-year-old girl, pregnant woman, grandson of local businessman among the dead in head-on collision south of Moab