Vehicle Rollover Accident Results in a Fatality in Grand Teton National Park

August 10, 2008
A single-car rollover on Saturday evening, August 9, resulted in the death of a sixteen-year-old male in Grand Teton National Park. The accident occurred at 7:05 p.m. on Highway 26/89/191, near the Elk Ranch Flats just 1.5 miles south of Moran junction. Seven people—an extended family from Washington State and Hungary—were traveling in a Honda Odyssey minivan when the accident occurred. The driver and six passengers sustained injuries; one of the passengers, an eight-year-old boy, suffered life-threatening injuries. Four of the vehicle occupants were wearing seatbelts and remained in the minivan; two passengers, including the deceased teenager, were ejected from the vehicle.

James Kochis, age 70, from Port Orchard, Washington, was driving southbound on the highway when his vehicle left the pavement for unknown reasons and rolled one or more times before coming to rest on all four wheels. The cause of the accident is under investigation; however, it appears that the tires of the minivan dropped off the pavement, forcing Kochis to make an abrupt correction, which caused the vehicle to roll and come to a stop on the east side of the highway after crossing both lanes of the highway.

The sixteen-year-old male passenger was ejected out of the rear window of the minivan and was pronounced dead at the scene. The eight-year-old boy received fractures to both legs and sustained other internal injuries. A park ambulance took the young boy and his father to St. John’s Medical Center, where he was transferred by Life Flight to Salt Lake City later Saturday night. The other four occupants were transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for treatment of a variety of serious injuries.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of the accident from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office shortly after it occurred. Approximately 20 park personnel (park rangers, emergency medical personnel, one Air Force EMT detailed to Grand Teton National Park and Teton interagency fire staff) as well as Jackson Hole Fire/EMS staff, Teton County deputy sheriffs and a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer responded to the accident. In addition to the interagency response, two physicians from St. John’s Medical Center, Dr. Will Smith (the park’s medical director) and Dr. Vaughn Morgan, also provided emergency medical care at the scene.

Teton interagency fire staff helped with traffic control at the Moran and Moose junctions to divert vehicles from the area. Other mutual aid assistance from Jackson included a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS rescue vehicle with an extrication team and two ambulances.

Due to the serious nature of the accident and the multiple ambulances and emergency medical personnel required to treat the numerous injured people, Highway 26/89/191 was closed to traffic from 7:10 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Traffic was rerouted through a detour along the Teton Park Road.