Crashes take lives on Wasatch Back |

Crashes take lives on Wasatch Back

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A Utah fireman died Thursday when his red Ford pickup truck launched off a cliff and submerged into about 50 feet of water at Deer Creek reservoir around 10 a.m.

The death of Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Michael Penovich, 38, helped cap a mid-week July 4 holiday that also saw several motorists injured on Summit County roadways.

Investigators do not know what caused Penovich to abruptly swerve off southbound State Road 189 near the mouth of Provo Canyon. The fireman was wearing a seat belt when he went through 87 feet of gravel without braking before driving of the roughly 100-foot cliff in Wasatch County, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Randall Richey said.

"He impacted with the side of the embankment and then went into the water," explained Richey. Penovich was traveling toward Provo in his fire department vehicle after attending a meeting in Heber.

Meanwhile, Peoa resident Nathan Haymore, who is in his 20s, was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at LDS Hospital after crashing a Mazda sports car at around 3 a.m. on July 4.

Haymore was traveling in Oakley on State Road 32 toward his home in Peoa when his vehicle left the roadway, said Terry Davis, a spokeswoman for South Summit Ambulance.

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"He is in very bad shape," Davis said, adding that Haymore was flown in a medical helicopter to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Haymore was ejected from the car, which stopped at least 100 feet from his body, Richey said.

"I think he hit a concrete irrigation-ditch abutment," Davis explained. "[Haymore] was thrown out, but his car continued quite a ways after he was thrown out."

Investigators blamed excessive speed for causing the crash.

"He wasn’t able to negotiate the turn and wasn’t restrained in the vehicle, and got ejected," Richey said. "It rolled over multiple times."

The recent string of violent traffic crashes on the Wasatch Back began June 30 when a 61-year-old man driving a Pontiac Grand Prix struck an elk on U.S. 40 near Strawberry reservoir in Wasatch County.

The man died in the hospital about 48 hours later, Richey said.

"They hit an elk and the pillar of the [car] they were driving decapitated the elk and the elk head came through the windshield," Richey said, adding that the elk head hit the male driver in the face before his 56-year-old wife grabbed the wheel. "He was knocked unconscious immediately and [his] wife had to grab the steering wheel and reach her foot over the center console to hit the brakes to get the car over to the side of the road."

In a separate crash that occurred near Francis on July 3 a man and teenaged boy were airlifted to hospitals after a Dodge pickup truck struck a Chevrolet Cavalier nearly head on near Foothill Boulevard on State Road 35.

"We don’t suspect alcohol or drugs," Richey said, adding that the South Summit man who was driving the car eastbound might have drifted into the oncoming lane after becoming distracted around 9 a.m. "The pickup truck overturned one time on the right side of the road and ended up on all four wheels."

Riding inside the truck were two adults and three children from Emery County, Richey said, adding that the South Summit man and a 14-year-old boy who were flown from the scene are expected to survive the accident.

The family was traveling from Woodland to a little league baseball game in Park City.

"They had to extricate the guy in the car," Davis said. "They had to get the car apart to get him out."

The family was reportedly wearing seat belts but the South Summit man wasn’t restrained in his car, Richey said.

The teenager who was airlifted suffered head injuries in the crash while the man in the car had an open femur fracture.

"Every summer we have a week here and there that is really ugly, and this has been one of those weeks," Richey lamented in a telephone interview Friday.

On July 4, four people luckily survived a traffic accident in the Snyderville Basin when a blown tire on their Ford pickup truck forced the vehicle to roll down the side of the Interstate 80 embankment in Summit Park, he said.

"They rolled quite a bit because of the steepness of the hill," Richey added about the crash that occurred around 11 a.m.