Driver panics after fender bender, launches Jeep into ravine

Jeep Wrangler is towed from ravine after two-vehicle crash on South Mall Drive, St. George, Utah, Nov. 22, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Jeep Wrangler was found upside down at the bottom of a ravine near the Virgin River after a driver involved in a two-vehicle crash panicked and floored the accelerator, a reaction that sent the Jeep hundreds of feet down an embankment Nov. 22.

Jeep Wrangler is located hundreds of feet from where it crashed into another vehicle on South Mall Drive, St. George, Utah, Nov. 22, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly after 1:15 p.m., officers and emergency responders were dispatched to a two-vehicle rollover on South Mall Drive near Smith’s Marketplace.

Officers found a charcoal gray Honda CR-V in the middle of the roadway with the driver and his passenger, an infant, uninjured in the crash, St. George Police Officer Ken Childs said.

Officers located the black Jeep Wrangler down by the river, “upside-down and hundreds of feet from the roadway,” Childs said.

The Jeep’s occupants were able to get out of the vehicle on their own before officers arrived, he said, and reported they were uninjured in the crash.

Officers learned from witness statements at the scene that the Honda was heading north on South Mall Drive as the Jeep, exiting the parking lot of Smith’s Marketplace, was waiting to make a left turn onto Mall Drive intent on heading south.

Honda CRV that was involved in two-vehicle crash on South Mall Drive, St. George, Utah, Nov. 22, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The Jeep pulled in front of the northbound Honda and was struck before the driver was able to clear the turn, entangling the bumpers of both vehicles in the process.

“The man in the Jeep said he hit his brakes as hard as he could, but he wasn’t able to avoid the low-impact crash because neither vehicle was going more than 15 miles an hour when it happened,” Childs said.

Rhett Gillins countered to St. George News in a message Thursday that he was the one driving the Honda and it was he who slammed on his brakes.

“I was the other driver,” Gillins wrote. “There was an error in the story that says the Jeep slammed on his brakes, it was actually me that slammed on the breaks (sic) to avoid collision. He didn’t even look over once to check if someone was coming before making the left hand turn. That point there was nothing I could do. Luckily I was paying attention and slowed down to about 15 mph, or else it would’ve been much worse.”

When the vehicles uncoupled, the Jeep driver pushed down on the accelerator, which sent the vehicle careening across both lanes until it left the right shoulder and became airborne as it dropped down into the ravine.

It landed near the bottom of the embankment before it flipped and came to rest upside-down.

The man driving the Jeep told officers he experienced a panic attack immediately after the initial crash and “floored it, which sent the vehicle flying off of the road and down the hill,” Childs said.

Multiple vehicles pulled over immediately after the crash.

Bystanders watch as Jeep Wrangler is being pulled from ravine by tow truck after a two-vehicle crash on South Mall Drive, St. George, Utah, Nov. 22, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Amy McAllister, was heading south on Mall Drive with her daughter, Maycee McAllister, said the Jeep “flew off of the road and then it seemed to disappear.”

Maycee McAllister said they thought the Jeep was going to pull over after the initial crash, “but before we had time to respond, the Jeep went off of the road and down the hill in slow motion.”

Amy McAllister said they pulled over to check on the occupants in the Jeep and  were relieved to see the couple get out of the vehicle.

She said she was amazed to see the woman in the Jeep “poke her head out of the window and get out of that car, and then her husband got out, which tells me they must have had guardian angels looking out for them.”

Numerous other witnesses told St. George News they were surprised to see the couple uninjured and able to speak.

Both vehicles sustained extensive damage and were towed from the roadway while multiple officers, firefighters and paramedics responded and assisted with the scene.

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

UPDATED Nov. 23, 2017, with statement from Rhett Gillins.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.  

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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8 Comments

  • 42214 November 22, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    More proof the St. George is home to the most incompetent drivers I’ve ever seen.

    • NotSoFast November 22, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      GPS to Driver; “Crap-Recalculating, Step on it”
      Well OK if you say so.

  • comments November 23, 2017 at 12:44 am

    this is why i like to keep both feet on the accelerator pedal. If there comes a time to panic then the left foot will keep my right foot pressed firmly down on the accelerator pedal and save me from panicking and moving the right foot to the brake. First thing I was taught in drivers training was it’s always safer to have at least 1 foot on the accelerator pedal, and even safer to have 2. UT driver manual states that your always safer when accelerating; braking or slowing is the most unsafe thing to be done. This is also why an 80mph speed limit is much too slow to be safe. It contradicts rule no 1 that states ” your always safer when accelerating” and that ‘your’ isn’t even an error……LOL

  • Ladyk November 23, 2017 at 2:06 am

    Happens to the best of us. Glad everyone is ok.

  • Caveat_Emptor November 23, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Some of us will recognize the bike/walking trail that runs along the Virgin River, and cuts under the bridge……
    In addition to watching out for other bikers, and folks walking, now we need to keep an eye out for flying 4x4s………

  • Lastdays November 23, 2017 at 8:50 am

    How in the heck does someone get a vehicle from a complete stop at Dino Crossing & Mall Dr intersection and be next to the river after rolling several times. How ???
    Drivers License should be surrendered for life!!

  • Bender November 23, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Jeep driver needs to fire their guardian angel. Slacker angel doesn’t show up until after driver causes accident and punches accelerator.

  • utahdiablo November 23, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Like a scene from “Family Vacation”…..Wow Dad you must have jumped the wagon 50 yards!….a man’s got to know his limitations.

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