A woman died Friday night after crashing into the Gros Ventre Junction roundabout just north of Jackson.
It was the second highway fatality in the Jackson area over the New Year’s holiday weekend after a crash in Hoback Canyon took the life of a Pinedale man earlier the same day, as reported in Monday’s Jackson Hole Daily.
Speeding, alcohol and drugs are being investigated as factors in the roundabout wreck, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Matt Brackin said.
The driver, Khlood Khalil Salah, was driving her rental car north just after 10 p.m. New Year’s Day when she was seen passing another car going 75 or 80 miles per hour, police said.
Salah’s GMC crossed the center lane and hit a barrier before launching into the roundabout.
“The car gets redirected and she gets ejected,” Brackin said.
Salah, of California, was pronounced dead on scene. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said her accidental death was due to head trauma.
Investigators are awaiting toxicology results to determine if alcohol or drugs were involved, Brackin said.
Brackin said Salah’s car was the subject of a 911 call two hours prior to the crash, where the caller suspected she was driving drunk in the town of Jackson. Officers were dispatched but couldn’t locate the car.
Brackin said they were still trying to piece together what Salah was doing in the hours leading up to the crash. Since the officers were called to the scene around 10:30 p.m., it would be unusual for her to be driving to the Jackson Hole Airport, where the last flight out was at 9 p.m., Brackin said.
Wyoming Highway Patrol also responded to a fatal wreck in Hoback Canyon on New Year’s Day, where a suspected drunk driver killed a Pinedale man.
Jade S. Jewkes, 28, of Jackson, is being held in the Sublette County Jail on charges of aggravated vehicle homicide in that crash, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Klief Guenther said. Alcohol impairment was being investigated as a factor, but her blood-alcohol level was not yet known.
Shane Deal, of Pinedale, was killed in the crash, which was just north of Granite Creek on Highway 191.
The first two highway fatalities were on the first day of the year in northwestern Wyoming.
“It is a terrible start,” Brackin said.
Grand Teton National Park’s first and only roundabout was the centerpiece of a nearly $6 million redesign at Gros Ventre Junction, and it has been the site of numerous collisions since construction of the structure was completed in 2018. There have been 10 incidents to date that have been significant enough to draw the attention of law enforcement rangers, according to park spokeswoman Denise Germann.
“Three of them included injuries, and one of them was the recent fatality,” Germann said. “All of them included some sort of extenuating circumstance, such as distraction, alcohol, following too closely.”
Although the New Year’s Day collision was the only to claim a life, a December 2019 crash was the most significant in terms of damage to the roundabout itself. At the time, a Florida semi-truck driver entered the intersection at an estimated 35 mph, then careened through the center stone pillars and wooden rails. The driver was cited for traveling too fast for conditions and failure to maintain control.
Afterward, federal traffic engineers visited the roundabout for a review of its safety.
“We got the report, and it concluded that the roundabout’s design attains the national standards, and it works as designed,” Germann said.
Although compliant, the park sprung for some retrofits to make the concrete and stone structure more visible, adding flashing beacons on the speed limit signs, reflectors to the center island and reflective markers to the snow polls delineating the side of the road.
No additional safety-related changes are in the works, though there is a planned redesign of the center island, which has been in disrepair since the December 2019 semi-truck collision. The purpose of the redesign, Germann said, is to reduce the replacement cost of the center pillars in case there’s another collision down the road.