DENVER — The family of a women’s rights activist from Uganda has filed a more than $270 million wrongful death and personal injury claim against the National Park Service after she was decapitated by an unsecured gate at Utah’s Arches National Park.
Newlyweds Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo, 25, and Ludovic “Ludo” Michaud, 26, were driving to get ice cream during a camping trip June 13 when a metal gate blew closed in strong winds and sliced through the side of their car “like a hot knife through butter,” according to the administrative claim, which was filed in October. The gate narrowly missed Michaud, who is originally from Paris but now lives in Denver.
“We just don’t want this to ever happen again,” Michaud said in an interview Thursday.
He is seeking a little more than $240 million in damages, while Nakajjigo’s parents are seeking $30 million.
“For want of an $8.00 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 is a precursor to a formal lawsuit.
In an email to The Associated Press, National Park Service spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo expressed sympathy for Nakajjigo’s family, friends and those whose lives she touched but did not address the wrongful death claim.
Attorney Deborah Chang, who filed the claim on behalf of Michaud, as well as Nakajjigo’s parents, wrote that the National Park Service has 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.
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