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Driver of Van in Fatal February Accident in Park City Sentenced to Four Months in Jail


A van driver arrested last winter for striking and fatally injuring a pedestrian in Old Town, pled guilty to a reduced charge in Third District on Monday and was sentenced to four months in jail.


The sentence was handed down to 24-year-old Salt Lake City resident Nicholas Thorston Westland, who drove a van for a Park City ski rental company.


A Park City police officer responded on Feb. 6 after a California visitor, Thomas Chauvel, was struck and injured on Empire Avenue. He later died of his injuries.


Westland was arrested for leaving the scene. In a plea agreement with the Summit County Attorney’s Office, the charge against him was reduced from a third-degree felony to attempted failure to remain at an accident involving death, which is a Class A Misdemeanor.


In a letter of apology he wrote to a surviving family member of the victim, Westland said he has been distraught and sorrowful since the accident.


He said he is not a reckless person. Westland said he has replayed the moment 1,000 times in his mind, but he never saw Chauvel in the street. He wrote that he was scared, in shock and not rational when a police officer appeared, and he drove the van away so he could call his girlfriend and tell her a terrible accident had happened. Westland said he also suffers from an autoimmune disease that has left him unstable when dealing with trauma, and that contributed to his behavior.


He said he won’t drive a van anymore because he is terrified of driving on the dark streets. Westland said the incident “wakes me up most every night in panic.” 


He wrote, “There are no real words I can offer that make this any better or easier.”


At the hearing on Monday, Third District Court Judge Richard Mrazik imposed a jail sentence for a year, but suspended all of it except for 120 days. 


Westland was ordered to report to the jail next Monday, Aug. 17. He was placed on probation for two years, required to complete a Thinking Errors course and comply with other standard terms and conditions.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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