The surviving family of a Ugandan celebrity and activist who was decapitated in a freak accident at a national park will receive $10.5 million from the government.
Esther Nakajjigo and her French husband Ludo Michaud were visiting Arches National Park in Utah on June 13, 2020, when the accident happened.
A wind gust caught a traffic control gate and forced it to swing violently into their rented Chevy Malibu as they drove through the exit. Nakajjigo was sitting in the passenger’s seat and was decapitated when the gate sliced through the passenger door.
In a recording to 911 from the incident, a bystander tells the dispatcher that the victim’s head was laying on the road.
Nakajjigo was 25 years old.
Michaud said during the civil trial that he was traumatized from sitting next to his wife during the lethal incident. He testified that he remembered trying to shake the blood of his wife off his hands.
An attorney for Michaud and his in-laws asked for $140 million to compensate for Nakajjigo’s expected future earnings. They argued that she had many plans to earn money for charities based on her work as Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls.
“She did quite an incredible amount of initiatives in the short time she had,” said Michaud.
The family’s attorney argued that the national park service had been negligent in not making sure the gate arm had been restrained properly. The metal arm was also not reportedly constructed to federal safety standards.
The government argued that the family was over-estimating the victim’s potential earnings power and said about $3.5 million would have been a more appropriate settlement.
Michaud said that he had taken his new wife to Arches because he wanted to show her the beauty of the national park.
“I really wanted to show her Arches because I know all the parks around Moab because, yeah, it’s one of my favorite places in the U.S.,” he recalled, “if not my favorite place.”
Here’s a local news report about the lawsuit:
FOX 13 Investigates: Grisly decapitation of ambassador at Arches
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Author: Carlos Garcia
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