Park Service faces $270M suit after death in Arches National Park

The National Park Service (NPS) is facing a $270 million wrongful death claim from the family of a Ugandan women’s rights activist after her death at Arches National Park, The Associated Press reported Friday.  

Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo, a 25-year-old newlywed, was visiting the Utah park with her husband Ludovic Michaud to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their first date. 

The two left to get ice cream when a metal gate blew closed with such force, it sliced through their car, decapitating Nakajjigo.


Michaud is seeking $240 million in damages while the Nakajjigo family is seeking $30 million. His lawyers say they will file a lawsuit if NPS doesn’t agree to the claim.

NPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nakajjigo was given a Woman Achiever Award at 17 after she used her college tuition money to start a health care center, offering free reproductive health services for women. According to the AP, she received numerous other humanitarian awards and created a popular reality television program aimed at empowering young mothers.

“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 WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyObama’s first post-election interviews to air on CBS on Sunday Stevie Wonder, Céline Dion and other stars to perform at Thanksgiving concert honoring nurses The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE,” the claim states.

The claim filed by Michaud’s lawyers described the gate as being held open by a “flimsy metal tab” that was “worn down and rounded.”

It points to a similar claim filed in 1980 after a man was impaled by an unsecured gate in California’s Stanislaus National Forest.