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Denver Woman Decapitated By Gate: Family Files $270M Wrongful Death Claim Against Arches National Park

DENVER (CBS4) - The family of a Denver woman has filed a $270 million wrongful death claim against Arches National Park after she was killed there over the summer. Newlyweds Esther "Essie" Nakajjigo and Ludovic Michaud visited the park in mid June.

Esther Nakajjigo and husband
(credit: Ludovic Michaud)

They were driving toward the exit when suddenly a gust of wind lifted a metal gate and the arm swung into the roadway. It impaled their car and decapitated Nakajjigo.

arches gate wide shot
(credit: Ludovic Michaud)

"The National Park Service has, in fact, known for decades that an unsecured metal pipe gate creates an undetectable hazard and dangerous condition," the claim states. It claims three other people have died from similar incidents involving gates in the last 32 years.

The lawsuit alleges that a simple $8 padlock could have prevented the gate from swinging, and claims the park violated regulations.

"For want of an $8 basic padlock, our world lost an extraordinary warrior for good," the claim continues.

Esther Nakajjigo
Esther Nakajjigo (credit: Ludovic Michaud)

Nakajjigo, 25, was a Ugandan human rights activist and moved to Colorado in 2019 to attend the Watson Institute in Boulder.

At age 17, Nakajjigo was recognized by the United Nations for her work for women, according to the claim. After seeing a pregnant 14-year-old girl die during a difficult delivery, Nakajjigo decided to use her college tuition money to start a nonprofit community health center that provided free reproductive health services to females aged 10-24.

"This act of selflessness went viral throughout Uganda, and she was featured in numerous magazines and news publications. The United Nations Population Fund awarded her a Woman Achiever Award," the claim states.

She was also awarded a full scholarship from the king of Buganda.

Nakajjigo created a reality TV show that helped child mothers stay in school and develop life skills, according to The Denver Post.

"The show saw an audience of 6.3 million each week, and Nakajjigo was named Uganda's 'Young Personality of the Year,'" the Post reported.

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