Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Family, police looking for answers in fatal I-80 crash

By Sandra Yi and Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Published: Mon, May 19 12:04 a.m. MDT

 Three people are dead and another is in critical condition after a crash on Interstate 80 near the Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday, May 17, 2014.

Three people are dead and another is in critical condition after a crash on Interstate 80 near the Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday, May 17, 2014.

(DPS)

SALT LAKE CITY — A violent one-car crash on Interstate 80 that killed three teenage passengers and injured the driver early Saturday morning has police and family members searching for answers.

The Utah Highway Patrol identified the front-seat passenger as Michaela Martin, 18, of Taylorsville. Authorities said the two back-seat male passengers were juveniles and would not release their names.

The driver, 23-year-old Jonathan Cruz of West Valley City, remained hospitalized in serious but stable condition sunday evening, said UHP Sgt. Beau Mason. He said investigators have not been able to talk to him.

"It's a tragic event with multiple families involved," Mason said.

Cruz sped out of a parking lot at Salt Lake International Airport about 5 a.m. Saturday when airport police tried to stop him for a traffic violation, Mason said.

An airport officer gave chase for a short time but ended the pursuit as the Volkswagen Passat entered I-80. The car crashed and rolled several times near the I-215 on-ramp, coming to rest on its roof in the weeds, according to UHP.

"We estimated their speed through the crash investigation at close to 100 mph," Mason said, adding it appears the driver made a last-minute decision to get onto I-215.

"We have no information as to why they were at the airport or why they might have fled, he said. Mason declined to talk about any evidence investigators have gathered.

Court records show a 3rd District judge issued a warrant for Cruz's arrest May 8 after he failed to pay a fine and complete a driver education course for driving on a suspended license and driving without a license in April 2013.

Martin's mother, Ida Garcia of Taylorsville, said her daughter and Cruz have been dating for a year and lived together in Magna. She said she hasn't been told much about the crash and doesn't know why they were at the airport.

Garcia said she and her daughter went to a movie Friday night and planned to spend Saturday together. She described Martin as fun-loving, artistic and playful.

"She's going to be missed by not only her family but she had friends. She was friends with everybody," Garcia said. "She just enjoyed life."

UHP, airport police and Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office are conducting a joint investigation into the crash.

"It will be a few days or more until we can address the car accident investigation," said airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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