A West Valley City man was killed last weekend when he was thrown from the all-terrain vehicle he was driving about 45 miles northwest of Moab.
Authorities believe that 23-year-old Colby M. Cooper was traveling northbound on the Ruby Ranch Road as he neared a curvy section of the route about 6.5 miles south of Interstate 70 on Sunday, April 24. His ATV reportedly failed to negotiate a turn along the well-maintained dirt and gravel road, and then struck a rock.
He was not wearing a helmet at the time, and Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said the impact of the collision propelled Cooper into a rocky area just off the road.
“Unfortunately, there are rocks there where he went off, and when he was flung from his ATV, his head struck a rock,” Neal said.
The sheriff’s office determined that alcohol was not a factor in the incident, which Neal attributed to excessive speed.
“Basically, he was just going too fast,” he said. “He just missed that turn.”
Grand County Sheriff’s Patrol Sgt. Curt Brewer said a witness reported that he was traveling in the same direction when Cooper passed him at an estimated 45 miles per hour.
“The (other) motorist was an off-duty officer, so it was pretty reliable information,” Brewer said.
Almost immediately after the accident, the officer rushed to the scene, but he determined that Cooper sustained fatal injuries.
“He checked him, and he reported that it was a pretty obvious fatality,” Brewer said.
Brewer subsequently responded to the scene, and he said that while he noticed tire marks on the road, it’s unclear if Cooper tried to slow down.
“We really aren’t sure if he attempted to brake,” Brewer said.
Although adult ATV riders are not required to wear helmets, Neal said he believes there’s a possibility that Cooper would have survived the accident if he’d protected his head.
“I don’t like to preach, but maybe if he had been wearing a helmet, this might not have happened,” Neal said.
The White Wash Sand Dunes are a popular destination for off-highway vehicle (OHV riders).
Nancy VanDevander said that she and her husband came from Loma, Colorado, that morning to ride in the area for the day. Considering that it is relatively far from the beaten path, she praised emergency personnel for getting there as quickly as they did, and said they did an “awesome job.”
VanDevander said that many vehicles and campers had to drive past the scene of the accident on their way back to the interstate.
When the VanDevanders headed back to their truck, she said they encountered an eerie sight of the markings that investigators made on the road, as well as the place where Cooper’s body was found.
VanDevander has a son who is the same age as Cooper, and she said she can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak that his family and friends are feeling right now.
“(It was) so sad and something that did not have to happen,” she said.
Over the years, she’s noticed that more and more people are coming to Moab to have fun outdoors. At the same time, she said, the number of off-highway vehicle accidents appears to be on the rise.
“We have been riding in western Colorado and eastern Utah for many years and the people and tragedies just seem to increase,” she said. “If anything, I hope this (accident) will make people stop and think just a little longer before taking the chances some take while riding.”
People really need to pay attention and be safe above all else, she said, while they enjoy their time in this “awesome area.”
“Things can happen so quickly and unexpectedly,” she said.
Authorities say speed a likely factor in death of West Valley City resident