SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Aug. 9, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Highway Patrol officials gathered Monday morning to put a face on the high cost of impaired driving.
And that face belonged to 26-year-old Angelica Gabrielle Jimenez Dhondup, who died in the twisted wreckage of her Toyota Corolla on Interstate 15 in South Salt Lake shortly after being struck at 1:11 a.m. Saturday by a wrong-way pickup driver.
The pickup driver, 36 -year-old Manaure Gonzalez-Rea, has since been charged with automobile homicide criminal negligence DUI of alcohol/drugs, among other felonies.
“Jelly,” as Angelica was called by loved ones, married high school sweetheart Tenzing Dhondup about seven hours prior to her death, and was looking forward to their life together with their two young sons and a daughter they were a week away from adopting, her relatives said.
Utah Highway Patrol Col. Mike Rapich introduced members of Jelly’s family, including her sister, Rachael, husband Tenzing Dhondup, and Marisol, Jelly’s 20-year-old relative who served as her bridesmaid and was in the car with Jelly during the fatal crash.
“What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life was also her worst day of her life,” sister Rachael Vigil said. “Right before she had passed away, we had just left her reception, and it was because it was short. When she got in the accident and she had a few minutes before her life was completely gone to make her final call to my sister, and let her know she was in an accident. She called for help, said she was in severe pain and gave the location where she was at. She was only on the phone for two brief minutes, she started to have an asthma attack, she has, she had really bad asthma, and had forgotten her inhaler. She was just excited that she had finally got married to her high school sweetheart. This is a day that she was looking forward to for over a year. She had to reschedule her marriage because of COVID.”
Rachael celebrated her sister as a loving mother and someone filled with kindness and joy, who would do anything to help people in need.
Marisol, her bridesmaid, recalled driving with Jelly to get a snack — carne asada fries — and drop off the wedding dress and a few gifts at home. Marisol said she confessed to Jelly that highway driving made her nervous, so bride and bridesmaid stopped at a gas station and switched seats in the Corolla and fastened their seat belts before heading for the on-ramp for the drive to a family member’s house, the younger woman said.
“She was talking about how she loved her sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews,” Marisol said. “She loves her grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles. She talked about how much she loved her kids and her new husband. It was such a sweet night. It was filled with laughter and joy that was cut short.”
Marisol said she doesn’t remember much of the accident.
“I was passed out, and when I woke up, I tried to wake Jelly up, and that didn’t work. On my phone, I tried contacting other people. No one was answering. So I panicked, and I tried waking Jelly up again.”
Marisol broke into sobs. “What I didn’t know at the time ….”
She paused to regain her composure.
“I did what I could. I tried calling other people. Thankfully, someone answered, and the rest of the family was informed. Her life was cut off shortly because of someone’s stupid mistakes, drinking and driving. I’m glad we were both wearing our seatbelts, because if I was not, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
“I’m thankful I only suffered minor injuries, but at what cost. I can’t sleep, because all I see when I close my eyes are headlights on the truck that hit us. Every bright light I see turns into a headlight. I’m just happy she spent her last living hours talking to the people she loved, and that she knew she was loved.”
Tenzing Dhondup stepped up to the podium, distraught, and struggled to talk about his loss, but could only get out a few words, including “why,” as his voice broke with emotion. Another family member put a gentle hand on his shoulder, then eased into his place to share memories of Jelly.
UHP Col. Rapich thanked the family members for coming forward to share the impact of their loss. He noted that Utah had five major crashes last weekend, resulting in six deaths.
“Thank you for being willing to share your story,” Rapich said. “The impact of these, they’re not just statistics. They’re horrible, and the impacts are devastating to families to communities, and to victims.”
Rapich said troopers support families at every crash.
“Patrol troopers were there that night. They were there with the family,” he said. “They talked to the family, they tried to help them understand what happened. We do that with every single crash. We there, we see the devastation, we see what happens. And we work with families and try to get perspective on why something horrible like this had to happen when it didn’t (have to).”
Troopers are seeing more high speeds, Rapich said.
“We’re seeing more intoxicated drivers. We’re seeing more distracted driving. We need to change the curve on that.
“I would be remiss if we didn’t point out, in addition to what the impact we see with the victims, that we see as communities, our troopers, our police officers, our first responders, our victims’ advocates, our EMTs — they’re out there on every single one of these. It’s getting so frequent that we almost don’t even have a chance to let them — emotionally — take a breath before they’re off to the next tragic incident. Small decisions sometimes have really horrible consequences, as we’ve seen this weekend.”