ST. GEORGE — A LaVerkin family has been devastated in a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 15 six miles north of the town of Scipio in Northern Utah during a trip to Salt Lake City.
On Thursday, a 1999 Dodge Caravan driven by Shane Clinger, 51, was attempting to pass a semi-tractor trailer in a construction zone when it was unable to successfully merge back into its travel lane.
According to a Utah Highway Patrol press release, the Caravan was traveling in the left lane and attempting to pass the semi as they entered a transition zone of the construction area where the left lane tapered into the right lane.
The Dodge “quickly” ran out space and Clinger was faced with a “last-minute decision” to either drive into the construction barrels or sideswipe the semi.
Clinger tried to avoid both choices and steered sharply to the left, driving into the median where it struck a crossover and vaulted across it, then rolling several times ejecting four juveniles, ages 11, 13, 15 and 16. Police said all of the children were not wearing seat belts.
The 11-year-old girl died en route to the hospital.
The three surviving juveniles were taken to Northern Utah hospitals. At the scene, Clinger had to be extricated from the vehicle and suffered what troopers considered “serious injuries.” Avis Clinger, 45, suffered minor injuries in the accident.
The UHP emphasizes the use of seat belts and observation of reduced speed limits in and around construction zones.
“You have to make sure everyone wears their seat belt,” said Cpl. Colton Freckleton, public information officer with the Utah Highway Patrol. “It really brings it home when it’s children. I feel really bad for this family, but it goes to show that seat belts do save lives.”
Freckleton urges drivers to travel through construction zones “very” patiently and make sure lane changes are made well ahead of entering lane closures.
“We ask drivers not to jerk the steering wheel in any given situation and slow down in construction zones,” Freckleton added.
Arizona resident Cambria Bates, the niece of Avis Clinger, said she is devastated by this tragedy.
“I’ve been crying,” Bates said in an interview with the St. George News. “My family is in gigantic need of help. This is my family and it’s just heartbreaking.”
With the goal of making a difference, Bates has set up a GoFundMe account to help the Clinger family.
To date, nearly 400 people have donated more than $28,000 to help pay for funeral and medical expenses.
“The Clinger family… A family that once you meet them, you can’t help but love,” Bates wrote on GoFundMe. “Shane (is) a hardworking, athletic man with his wife Avis, so selfless and devoted by his side. They created four beautiful, fun, spunky, artistic, free-spirited, and adventurous girls. They are always full of laughter, joy and every single one gives the best, tightest hugs.”
Although UHP could not identify the names of the children or the extent of their injuries, Bates shed light on the details of the family shortly after the accident.
“Tragically, the youngest Relina (11) now soars with angel wings,” Bates said. “Shane (father) has possible spine injuries and is undergoing surgery and waiting for results. Abby (15) is suffering from a broken hip. Faith (13) and Shae (16), both have lacerations. Avis (mother) is holding strong through a broken nose, swelling, bruising and ensuring that her husband and (the surviving daughters) are going to make it through this.”
Of all the intricacies of this tragedy, Bates said, the loss of Relina is the hardest to bear.
“She was the spunky one of the group,” she added. “She was full of love and all the time, all the time happy.”
On the crest of becoming a young woman, Relina “for sure had one passion,” Bates said. It was to own a dog, but her dad was intractable in saying no.
“She loved dogs to the point that she would find out how to be around them, walking neighbor’s dogs, grooming them and being close to them,” Bates said. “Eventually Shane cracked and gave in.”
On Friday, Bates began posting updates through GoFundMe.
“Faith is out of surgery,” Bates said. “Everything went very well according to the medical staff. Shane may be paralyzed, Avis has a cut forehead and fractured nose. Shae has a fractured lower back and broken collar bone. Abby has a few fractures in her pelvis. Faith had a collapsed lung and cracked ribs and most of the cuts will need plastic surgery.”
Bates added that since the accident, Shane is unable to move his legs and his recovery is “day-to-day. Right now, it’s a waiting game.”
According to Bates, not much had changed by Saturday except to say “Shane got to FaceTime (with) his kids which was a sweet moment.”
Shae is emotional but is hanging in there and staying strong. Abby continues to get up and move to a chair and tries to get a better range of movement every day to heal as fast as possible. Faith suffered road rash on her face and back and received grafting and stitches on her ear, neck and chin.
“The plastic surgeon did an amazing job,” Bates said. “The bad news is we found out she doesn’t have one broken rib, but seven broken ribs and a punctured lung. She hates the chest tube the most and is in a considerable amount of pain in her arm and ribs and mostly the chest tube. She listens very very well so when she’s told to relax more or cough or sit up, she does it and feels much better. She’s such a sweetie.”
As of Saturday, Avis was suffering through vertigo because of a concussion suffered in the accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seatbelts. In 2017, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts.
In 2019, slightly more than 90% of Americans used seat belts.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that a total of 23,714 drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. More than half of teens ages 13-19, and adults, 20-44, who died in 2016 were not buckled up at the time of the crash.
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