SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A tour bus driver killed in a crash near the Utah-Nevada border was the father of Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata, officials said Tuesday.
The Utah Highway Patrol said 53-year-old Pita Asiata of Bountiful was impaled by a drilling device Monday evening when the bus collided with a utility truck on Interstate 80. Three of the 50 bus passengers were critically hurt.
Matt Asiata, 26, attended Hunter High School in West Valley City and played football for the University of Utah before joining the NFL. He has played sparingly this season and missed the last game with a shoulder injury.
“This is heartbreaking news for Matt and his family,” the Vikings said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We are here to support the Asiata family in any way possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Asiata family.”
The tour bus operated by Utah-based Le Bus departed from Wendover, Nev., and was headed to Salt Lake City, said Tim Brown, a spokesman for the transportation company.
Others on the bus and in the utility truck reported minor injuries.
A pregnant woman reported feeling labor pains and contractions after the crash, Highway Patrol Cpl. Todd Johnson said.
She was checked by doctors as a precaution, Johnson said. He had no further details on her condition but noted she was not one of the critically injured passengers.
The crash occurred around 6 p.m. about 35 miles from the Nevada state line.
Both vehicles were traveling east when the truck slowed to enter a median turnaround and was struck by the bus. An investigation is underway.
Pita Asiata became a driver for Le Bus in February 2009 and since then had only one minor accident, when his bus struck a parked car, Brown said.
“Obviously, our first concern is for the family of our bus driver, for all who were injured and their families, and for each of the other passengers on our bus,” the company said in a statement.
The company said it was investigating the accident.
Matt Asiata went undrafted out of the University of Utah and was signed to the Vikings’ practice squad in 2011 but was released soon after the season started. He instead spent his time working in an industrial supply warehouse that fall and was re-signed in 2012, performing well enough in training camp to make the active roster. He stuck around again this season.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pita Asiata, the father of Matt and Shawn Asiata,” University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Matt, Shawn and their entire family as they go through this extremely difficult time.”
Johnson said the highway was closed in both directions for several hours after the crash but all lanes were open Tuesday.
The utility truck was being used by a construction crew working in the area, troopers said.
The truck had hazard lights on, and the auger had orange markings, said Brady Warnock, a member of the construction crew who was driving a vehicle in front of the truck.
Warnock told The Deseret News there was still daylight at the time of the crash.
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