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Remembering the 2005 van crash victims at Ag building memorial

April 15th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Allie Jeppson

LOGAN—It was just over six-and-a-half years ago, on Sept. 26, 2005, that tragedy struck Utah State University—eight students and an instructor on their way home from a fieldtrip in Tremonton were killed when a tire blew on their 15-passenger van.

See KSL coverage of the 2005 crash

The nine victims are remembered daily as students, staff and faculty walk by the 20-foot cement and bronze memorial erected outside USU’s new Agricultural Science and Research Building.

The monument was relocated this spring from its previous home in the Taggart Student Center, and honors instructor Evan Parker, 45, of Hooper, and agriculture students Steven D. Bair, 22, of Moses Lake, Wash; Dusty Dean Fuhriman, 22, of Tremonton; Justin W. Gunnell, 24, of Wellsville; Justin Huggins, 22, of Bear River City; Jonathan Dennis Jorgensen, 22, of Hyrum; Curt A. Madsen, 23, of Payson; Ryan Wayne McEntire, 22, of West Point; and Bradley G. Wilcox, 26, of Salt Lake City—all ejected from the van and killed.

Fellow students Jared Nelson and Robert Peterson survived the crash.

Unveiled in 2009, the memorial’s nine bronze panels represent each of the victims. It now stands in the new Memorial Plaza outside the Ag Building and adjacent to the USU Quad. It does not stand alone, but is surrounded by trees and a concrete bench with an inscription that reads, “To honor the men lost, their families and the agricultural community touched by the tragedy of September 2005, this bench provides a place of reflection and comfort. May the spirit of agriculture always be found at Utah State University.”

Memory of the eight students extends beyond the memorial plaza and into the new building, with a classroom named after one of the victims, Dusty Fuhriman, made possible by a gift from his father. The classroom, which includes a commemorative plaque in Fuhriman’s honor, will be used by students in the plants, soils and climate department, Cockett said.

The bench, donated by 2005-06 ASUSU Agriculture Senator Cody Bingham, is a concise summary of Bingham’s feelings and a reminder that USU has a history of good and bad, Bingham said.

“We’re trying to remember the good of those individuals that had a bad thing happen to them,” Bingham said.

Although the plan was always for the memorial to be moved to the new building, it was not always thought that it would be housed outside, said Agriculture Dean Noelle Cockett.

“As we started doing the layout for the building, we realized that this was a beautiful piece of artwork, and that by placing it outside, more people would see it, enjoy it, and appreciate it,” she said.

For faculty and students in the College of Agriculture, the memorial’s prominence helps keep their former classmates and colleague them alive.

“The sculpture itself is a symbol of the dedication that the students had to agriculture,” said Bruce Miller, head of Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Department. “You can never take for granted how long your life is going to last and how long you can pursue your dreams.”

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