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Family of woman ambassador killed in Arches National Park awarded $10 million: "The sky was her limit"

CBS Colorado 2/6/2023 Karen Morfitt

It has been nearly three years since Ludovic Michaud lost his wife Esther "Essie" Nakajjigo. 

A loss so horrific it delayed his ability to grieve. 

"The first few months, I had PTSD. You are reliving the accident and having bad flashbacks hundreds of times a day," Michaud said.

The two were newlyweds when they took a trip from Denver to Arches National Park in Utah.

While driving through the park wind caused one of the gates to swing into their lane of traffic.

The gate that was left unsecured and installed backward hit the couple's car, decapitating his wife, who sat in the passenger seat beside him.

"An important part of this whole process was to raise awareness and make sure those gates are secured and I have heard that some efforts have been made, " Michaud said.

A lawsuit was filed alleging the National Park Service was negligent in maintaining the gates, which the government never denied.

Still, a trial was set to determine the damages owed both from the trauma and the value of the life lost. 

"The sky was the limit for her," Randi McGinn said.

McGinn, one of the lead attorneys on the case, says they had no shortage of evidence showing that 25-year-old Nakajjigo was changing the world.

As a teenager, she had raised millions of dollars to build a medical clinic in Uganda, where she was from.

She was an ambassador for women and was an icon in the country, the fame she used to grow her initiatives.

"The judge found that her life had great value and we got a verdict that was almost three times the previous verdict for any judge in Utah. I think it shows justice can be had in America," she said. 

Michaud says no amount of money could ever replace what was lost.

But he hopes it will be enough to keep his wife's work alive. And in a way his connection to her. 

"Continuing what was dearest to her is really important and I know she would want me to do that so it's just what I'm going to do," he said. 

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