Twist after newlywed decapitated by gate at national park

·News Editor
·3-min read

In a new twist to a heartbreaking story the family of a newlywed who died after a gate at a national park decapitated her in a freak accident is suing the National Park Service. 

Human rights activist Esther Nakajjigo, 25, died on June 13, 2020, when a traffic control gate blew into her rental car at Arches National Park in the US state of Utah. 

Fox13 reports the metal pole of the unlatched gate pierced the car after it was blown by strong winds, with her husband Ludo Michaud watching the whole tragedy unfold. 

"I really wanted to show her Arches," he said.

"Because I know all the parks around Moab ... It's one of my favourite places in the US, if not my favourite place.

"I saw the worst thing I hope I will ever see."

Esther Nakajjigo and her husband Ludo Michaud pose for a photo while sitting in a car.
Esther Nakajjigo and her husband Ludo Michaud. Source: Fox13

The tragedy occurred when the couple was leaving the national park after hiking to Delicate Arch and eating lunch. 

The woman's parents and Michaud filed the lawsuit in the federal court last week, for an unknown sum. It comes after they filed a claim with the National Park Service last year requesting A$350 million. 

Fox13 reports the lawsuit however, does not state the amount the family are seeking, but in the paperwork they accuse park staff of negligence. 

It claims the gate was not secured as required by federal policies and the gate that killed Ms Nakajjigo had been unlatched for two weeks. 

Pole cut car like 'hot knife through butter'

The initial administrative claim, which was filed in October before the lawsuit, said the couple was driving to get ice cream during a camping trip when the pole sliced through the side of their car "like a hot knife through butter". 

It narrowly missed Michaud. 

The car in the aftermath of the tragedy that killed  Esther Nakajjigo.
The initial claim said the pole sliced through the car like a "hot knife through butter". Source: Fox13

“For want of an $8 basic padlock, our world lost an extraordinary warrior for good; a young woman influencer who was destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, Philanthropist Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey,” according to the claim, which was a precursor to the formal lawsuit.

Lawyer Deborah Chang, who filed the claim on behalf of Michaud, as well as Nakajjigo’s parents, wrote that the National Park Service had for years used entrance and exit gates made of metal poles with “spear-like sharp ends”, and they were known to swing into roadways when left unsecured.

Newlywed received humanitarian awards

Nakajjigo was born in Kampala, Uganda, and used her university tuition money to start a non-profit community health care centre when she was 17, providing free reproductive health services to girls and young women, according to a biography included in the claim.

The United Nations Population Fund gave her a Woman Achiever Award when she was 17, and she was named Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls at the ceremony. 

The metal gate at Arches National Park.
The lawsuit claims the gate had been unsecured for two weeks. source: Fox13

She received numerous other humanitarian awards and created a popular reality television series aimed at empowering young mothers.

Nakajjigo was offered a full scholarship to the Watson Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and started a social entrepreneurship program in early 2019. 

She and Michaud were married in March 2020, and the two travelled to Arches to celebrate their one-year anniversary of when they first met on a dating app.

In an email to The Associated Press last year, National Park Service spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo expressed sympathy for Nakajjigo’s family, friends and those whose lives she touched.

Fox13 reports the National Parks Service declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

with AP

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