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Residents want freeway barrier after another vehicle careens down hill

NEPHI, Utah – For the fourth time in four years, a vehicle has lost control and plunged off of Interstate 15 and into the back yards of several neighbors in Nephi.

Resident said they were tired of waking up to crashes that nearly hit their homes, and they want the Utah Department of Transportation to do something after repeated requests.

Officials with the Utah Highway Patrol said the driver of a southbound sedan left I-15 a half mile from the Nephi 100 North exit around 7 a.m. Tuesday.  They said the driver fell asleep and the car plunged about 30 feet off the embankment into the backyards of that neighborhood.

UDOT officials said they sent a letter to the chief of the Nephi Police Department nine months ago, telling him that a cable barrier system would be installed.

Nothing has been built.

Nephi residents want a better barrier installed to keep vehicles from leaving I-15 and driving down the hill near their homes.

“Something needs to be done, and it still feels like it’s being ignored,” said Cullen Dinkel, who woke up to a familiar emergency as he and his family got ready for the day. “A little car had gone off the road and rolled down the embankment there.”

“The driver, it appears, fell asleep,” said Lt. Scott Robertson with the UHP. “It rolled one time and landed here behind these homes.”

Three people were in the car. Police said there were no life-threatening injuries. The front seat passenger had to be airlifted by medical helicopter.

The vehicle ended up just 30 feet from where a semi-truck plowed into Dinkel’s yard last April.

“High alert for us again, so we went outside,” he said.

“We heard a really loud bang or crash,” said Casie Morgan.

“He goes, ‘Another car has crashed into our yard,’” she said. “It’s obvious that something needs to happen. They need to put up some sort of a barrier there because not only is it dangerous for the people that are living in those homes, but it’s dangerous for those people that are driving along that 2-3 mile stretch because it’s a massive drop off.”

She counted 6 similar crashes over a 12-year span, 4 in the last 3 years. She also counts more than a dozen young children living nearby.

For several months after the last crash, Dinkel startled at loud noises up on the interstate.

“Something like this happens, and you think, this is all starting again,” he said. “You start to feel safe, and then you realize I’m not safe at all.”

After last year’s crash, the Lieutenant Governor’s office directed UDOT to look into the issue. Last September, UDOT sent the letter to the police chief, saying a protective cable barrier would be installed once the project was funded.

“We haven’t heard anything from them. Nothing’s been done up there,” said Dinkel.

UDOT officials said the safety project was slated for discussion at an upcoming meeting, and funding will likely be available for a cable barrier installation this fall or next spring.

“We don’t know what their plan is,” said Dinkel, frustrated. “Give us some indication. Tell us it’s going to be fixed by the end of the summer. So that we can do what we need to do to protect ourselves.”

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