Monument memorializes 1963 truck crash

Tom Heal and Lee Colvin avoided for nearly 30 years an area in southern Utah where 13 people including six fellow Explorer Scouts died in a truck accident.

But a monument they helped build to honor the fallen boys and adults has transformed the remote desert location 47 miles southeast of Escalante, Garfield County, into a place they no longer dread."The feeling that exists at this spot now is one of peace. It's a sacred feeling. It will always be," Heal said.

As the capstone was placed on the marker in late May, Heal said, he and Colvin saw two doves perch on a cottonwood tree in the wash. "We've never seen a pure white dove in the wild before," he said. On the day of the dedication, a ribbon of color, like a rainbow, hovered in an otherwise clear sky.

Hundreds of family members and friends of those who lived and died in the accident gathered at the wash June 10 to dedicate the red sandstone marker. A plaque mounted in the stone lists the names of those who died and briefly describes the accident. Many attended the ceremony to renew old acquaintances and heal lingering emotional wounds.

The accident occurred June 10, 1963, when the 21/2-ton cattle truck loaded with Scouts from the Provo Pleasant View Ward, East Sharon Stake, their leaders and others failed to climb a steep hill and overturned in the wash. Of the 49 passengers, 13 died, seven from the same ward, and 26 were injured. The group was en route to Hole-in-the-Rock, a historic pioneer crossing, to begin a trip down the Colorado River. It was to be one of the last expeditions on a stretch of river that would soon be consumed by the creation of Lake Powell.

Tracy Hall Sr., a former second counselor in the Pleasant View Ward bishopric, offered a dedicatory prayer. His two sons and a nephew survived the rollover; another nephew died.

"There is no solace in the fact that down through the centuries bad things have happened to millions of faithful, good people. Some, unfortunately, will blame God for the bad things or even come to say there is no God," he said.

He then read a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball, bringing an eternal perspective to life:

" `If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the pre-earth past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put into proper perspective . . . . If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith."

Many of those who attended the dedication found it a time to soothe emotional pain.

One of the survivors, Jim Taylor, whose father Darrel Harvey Taylor died in the crash, said he couldn't remember much about the accident. He spent much of the afternoon talking to those who recalled the details.

"I think we're going to work out a lot of emotional pain here today. I think we're going to heal a lot of emotional scars," said Taylor, who stayed at the site after many had left.

Ron Benson, another survivor, said the memorial was long overdue. "It brought a good feeling," he said.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed