A man who injured four teenagers in a Logan Canyon crash was ordered to serve consecutive prison sentences after an emotional in-person sentencing in 1st District Court on Monday.
Nearly 100 court observers, most of whom participated online, watched as Dustin Wesley Andersen was taken away by bailiffs in a sight hardly seen since the COVID-19 pandemic hampered in-person proceedings in the court.
Andersen, 46, pleaded guilty on March 15 to four counts of driving under the influence — two third-degree felonies and two class-A misdemeanors. Prosecutors say Andersen crossed a double yellow line and careened his pickup head-on into a southbound Kia occupied by the teenagers.
Judge Brandon Maynard said the “tragic and horrific” incident warranted a prison sentence, though the decision wasn’t taken lightly by the court.
“This is my choice,” Maynard told the victims and their parents in an effort to alleviate any lingering burden. “You go forward and live your lives.”
Prior to sentencing, a family member on behalf of Andersen addressed the court describing Andersen as a “good man” with a “quick wit” and a “kind heart.” She said Andersen volunteered in his community, assisted with search and rescue and came from a family that believed in accountability.
“This accident was horrible,” the family member said, explaining she had no intention of minimizing the harm done to the victims. “I just want to share who he is.”
Defense attorney Vincent Stevens argued for Andersen to avoid prison, or at least have concurrent sentencing, so he could make immediate efforts toward restitution. Stevens said Andersen was contrite and “under no illusion” that he should escape punishment.
From what appeared to be a prepared statement, Andersen said he was “extremely sorry” for his actions and everyone he affected. Andersen said he was oblivious that his addiction could result in harm.
“Honestly, I was blind to the idea,” Andersen said. “I am determined to atone for my actions.”
Each victim, accompanied by parents, addressed the court and relayed their experiences during and after the wreckage.
After breaking her femur, one victim told the court she now experiences panic attacks after formerly living a life free from anxiety. She said a consecutive prison sentence was in “everybody’s best interest.”
“I feel like a completely different person,” she told the court.
Another victim, who had recently left for a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked the court for what he deemed appropriate punishment, but also expressed hope Andersen could “get help and realize what he’s done.”
“We were just hanging out, having an awesome time,” the victim said. “Seeing my friends in that condition is going to stick with me for a while.”
Another said she actually saw Andersen’s truck swerving into their lane on two wheels prior to the collision. Now, she said she has difficulty hearing road sounds while driving, and “continual PTSD” that initially had her struggling with mental images of the crash.
“I’d go to bed in tears,” she said.
The final victim who addressed the court expressed her experience having been paralyzed and losing both legs in the incident. She told the court “people are scared” of a person “with no legs.”
“People treat me differently, now,” she said, tearfully. “People are scared of me.”
One parent spoke to a term frequently heard throughout the case — impact. From victim impact statements to the literal and figurative impact from the crash, the parent asked for Andersen to have his own experience with the term.
“Let Mr. Andersen feel the impact of his choices,” the parent said to the judge.
On July 30, according to Cache County prosecutors, Andersen was headed northbound toward Bear Lake from Tremonton when he struck the black Kia car. Andersen had an ATV in the back of the truck, according to Cache County attorney James Swink, and had a blood alcohol concentration six times over the legal limit.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers wrote in an affidavit that yaw marks from the pickup were over 250 feet long and it was estimated Andersen was traveling over 50 miles per hour when the crash occurred. The victim’s advocate told the court the area where the wreck occurred was devoid of cell phone or radio service; it was later said by a victim it took nearly 45 minutes for first responders to arrive.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions on the courts, Maynard found exigent circumstances for an in-person, special setting for Andersen’s sentencing at the request of prosecutors. Each victim and Andersen were allowed two support people in the courtroom at the time of sentencing.