A 33-year-old Moab man died unexpectedly on Jan. 11 in a two-vehicle crash near Green River.
The Utah Highway Patrol said Tyler Palmer, 33, was one of two victims in an accident on U.S. Highway 6 at approximately 7:30 a.m. The second victim was identified as 37-year-old J.R. Nelson of Price.
Palmer was driving westbound in a Ford 150 on U.S. Highway 6 and Nelson was traveling eastbound in a Toyota Camry when the vehicles collided head-on. The Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) said fog was moderate at the time of the crash and likely contributed to the cause. Both Palmer and Nelson died from the injuries they suffered as a result of the accident.
Palmer resided in Moab since 2006. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, and their three-year-old son.
Friends and co-workers of Palmer said he has made a big impact not only in the local community but across the country for his work as a wilderness therapist and outdoor guide.
Ian Jewell is a case manager at Four Corners Community Behavioral Health. He worked with Palmer in the past at Wilderness Quest, a company that specializes in wilderness therapy in southeast Utah.
“It was kind of Tyler’s thing, working with troubled teens,” Jewell said on Jan. 15. “He became a licensed therapist in the state of Utah at one point.”
Moab resident John Early, a close friend of Palmer’s, also worked alongside him during their time at Wilderness Quest.
“He spent much of his life helping others and he was a pillar in his own family and in the community,” Early said on Jan. 15. “He loved Moab, he loved the desert. I have a guide company and I can tell you that he is the best possible guide you can imagine.”
Jewell and Early said Palmer was an expert naturalist, often creating and leading programs in the region.
“He invested many years working on programs to rehabilitate people with destructive behaviors and mental health issues,” Early said. “He was very passionate about helping families heal.”
His passions extended to anthropology, geology, archaeology, botany, exploring the Abajo and Bears Ears regions, mountain biking and of course, his family and friends. Jewell said Palmer “spent more time out in the desert in southeast Utah than anyone his age.”
In his 13 years in Moab, Palmer worked with a variety of businesses that included restaurants and guide companies and as his time in Moab grew, so did his circle of friends, Jewell said. Friends and family have been flying into Canyonlands Field Airport from across the country, he said, to attend the service and memorial planned for Jan. 16.
“He had a ton of students,” Jewell said.
Moab resident Eve Tallman said Palmer’s students and their families have been reaching out in light of the tragic news of his death.
“Tyler and Wendy have tons of friends. I think a lot of business owners know him very well,” Tallman said.
“He did a lot to help people,” Early said. “He was an amazing father and an amazing friend.”
Palmer’s family planned a gathering for a celebration of his life, “generous spirit and love of the outdoors” at the Sand Flats Recreation Area on Jan. 16, with a reception at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center.
The UHP called it an “awful” crash in a press release and said the cause of the accident remains under investigation. Officers responding to the scene used a drone to diagram the scene to get a better understanding of how the crash occurred.
A GoFundMe account has been established for Wendy Palmer and their son at www.gofundme.com/gunnerpalmer.
Tyler Palmer, 33, described by friends as a community teacher, guide and wilderness therapist
“He spent much of his life helping others and he was a pillar in his own family and in the community.”