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Utah Sinkhole Death: Girl, 15, Dies in Crash

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Justine Barneck, 15, was killed when her father's SUV hit the edge of a sunken road. The Utah sinkhole also caused another car to crash inside the huge depression.

The accident occurred after a storm had swept out a culvert underneath Route 35. The damage took out a length of road that was 40 feet across and 30 feet deep, the Deseret News reports.

Justine Barneck, of Tabiona, Utah, died on the scene after her father's car careened and crashed. Her father, Michael Barneck, was injured. The other woman who crashed into the sinkhole itself was also injured, reports the Deseret News.

The accident occurred at around 11:45 p.m., which meant that visibility on the road would have been difficult, reports the Deseret News. Michael and his daughter were both wearing seatbelts, and both airbags had deployed.

Could there be a lawsuit against the maintainer of the roads for the sinkhole? In some cases, sinkholes and accidents caused by sinkholes can result in lawsuits. For example, if a company drills under the earth and ends up creating a sinkhole, it could be possible that the company was negligent and as a result could be legally liable.

In this case, however, if the sinkhole was caused by a natural disaster or unexpected rain storms, and the maintainer of the roads likely did not breach a duty of care in the maintenance of the culvert or the road. Thus, there may not be as strong of a case - or any case at all.

The tragedy, however, has hit especially hard as the sinkhole accident victim, Justine Barneck, left behind her parents as well as five siblings, including her twin sister, reports the Deseret News. The Utah sinkhole has also resulted in the road being closed until repairs are made.

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