A South Dakota woman sustained fatal injuries on this section of the Hell's Revenge Trail during a private group ATV ride on April 6. Karen Johnsen was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office. [Photo courtesy of Stephen Nielson / stephennielson.com]

Two people were killed this week in unrelated off-road accidents near Moab.

Chris Hower, 30, of Ely, Nevada, died on Saturday, April 4, after he was struck by a vehicle that was coming down from a jump along a designated 4×4 Dirt Riot Endurance Racing course in the Black Ridge area of San Juan County. According to San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, Hower was taking pictures from an unauthorized area near the privately owned Area BFE track about 15 miles south of Moab.

In a separate incident, 63-year-old Karen Johnsen of Milbank, South Dakota, died on Monday, April 6, after the all-terrain vehicle she was driving rolled on top of her as she attempted to climb the “Hot Tubs” obstacles along the Hell’s Revenge Trail.

Johnsen, who was not wearing a helmet, was traveling in a private group and was not part of any Easter Jeep Safari events or professionally guided ATV tours of the popular Sand Flats Recreation Area trail, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.

Classic Air Medical helicopter crews transported her to Moab Regional Hospital, where she passed away as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. The Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Grand County Emergency Medical Services and Grand County Search and rescue teams also responded to the scene.

Hower, a Montana native, came to Moab to participate in his first Jeep Safari event. Easter Jeep Safari guide Marc Bryson of Woods Cross and others who met Hower for the first time recalled that he made a positive impression on many people he encountered in just a few days.

“He was just a respectful and fun-loving guy,” Bryson told the Moab Sun News.

Audrey Byrd of Henderson, Nevada, summed up Hower’s giving and helpful nature by recalling his actions during the April 3 Easter Jeep Safari raffle at the Old Spanish Trail Arena.

“(He) was the man that donated his winning prize back so that it could be auctioned off to help a fellow person in need,” Byrd said in a post on the Red Rock 4-Wheelers’ Facebook page. “That was how anyone that met him, would remember him. Always helping everyone, all the time.”

Jeep Safari participant Christopher Patrick never knew Hower before last month, but he said they camped out together last week. The day before the accident, the two man had breakfast together at the Moab Diner, giving Patrick the privilege of learning about Hower’s family and his life.

“What an incredibly kind soul,” he said.

Hower, a military veteran and volunteer firefighter, also joined about 40 of his peers on last week’s Jeep Safari Patriot Crawl tribute ride.

“He was an awesome person who was also a selfless veteran,” Lander, Wyoming, resident David McIlrath wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “My prayers go out to his family, fiancé and his friends.”

Hower’s sister Jamie Nichole said her family cannot thank everyone enough for their support.

“(We) would like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude for the kindness this community showed him and our family,” she said in a Facebook post. “Even after the tragedy, the community acted with poise and grace and had the kindest words for him and our family. We find some comfort in knowing that Chris left this world doing what he loved the most – Jeeping.”

Hower is survived by his 6-year-old daughter Kalli and his 9-year-old son Elijah. To help support them in the short term, and long into the future, the family is accepting contributions through a verified Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/8ctk1w.

While news of the tragedy at the Area BFE race might temporarily overshadow the Jeep Safari event, Bryson said he is impressed with the amount of organization that went into this year’s Easter Jeep Safari. He praised event organizers for their cooperative efforts with federal land managers and law enforcement officials to help ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

“For as small of a town as Moab is, it’s incredibly well put together and accommodating,” he said.

On any given day during Jeep Safari, thousands of people are out on the trails, yet reports of major incidents are few and far between.

“The (Red Rock 4-Wheelers) club does a really good job about doing what needs to be done,” he said.

Nevada man, South Dakota woman die in separate incidents