Fatalities, Gouldings, and annular eclipse are top San Juan Record website stories of 2023

Fatal accidents, the sale of Gouldings Lodge and the annular eclipse were among the top stories that clicked with SJR readers in 2023.
For our year-end review, the San Juan Record looks at our top stories of the year determined by views each story received on the San Juan Record website at sjrnews.com.
The website carries some of our main stories every week, in addition to all obituaries and a number of photos.
Links to these stories can be found on sjrnews.com under the Biggest Website Stories tab.
Monticello man killed on Peters Hill
The top three stories in 2023 related to deadly car collisions, with the most-clicked story related to the crash that killed 22-year-old Julian Atencio of Monticello on September 15.
Atencio was the sole occupant of a pickup traveling northbound on 191 when it veered off the road approximately half-way down Peters Hill north of Monticello.
Two killed in Hwy 191 head-on collision
The second most clicked story in 2023 is related to the death of two travelers on Highway 191 north of Monticello on September 14.
The head-on collision between two sedans occurred just before 1 a.m. when one of the vehicles crossed the center line resulting in the collision.
The crash occurred near the turn off to the Needles Overlook road and resulted in the death of the sole occupants of both vehicles, an 89-year-old man and 59-year-old woman.
Carnage claims lives on local highways
The third most clicked story in 2023 was written on September 19 and noted the three deaths mentioned in the previous stories, as well as the death of a passenger in a vehicle that rolled near Monument Valley on September 15, and the death of an individual on an ATV east of Monticello that same week.
In addition to the five vehicle-related deaths in a single week, two other vehicle deaths occurred in late August and early September as well as a crash that resulted in an amputation of a limb.
Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Charlie Taylor shared five contributing factors to the fatal crashes and encouraged drivers to evaluate their driving. The five factors included:
1- High speed driving 2- Inadequate seatbelt use 3- Equipment problems, highlighted by tires and brakes 4- Distracted and fatigued driving, and 5- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Local pilot walks away from airplane crash
The September 13 crash of a vintage bi-plane one mile north of Monticello resulted in the pilot being transferred to the hospital but was not fatal.
Local cattlemen receive Rancher of the Year Award
Shawn and Tyler Ivins, as the operators of the Broken I Ranch, were recognized as the Rancher of the Year by the Utah Section of the Society of Range Management in November.
The Ivins were nominated for their innovative use of virtual fencing of cattle to keep them out of the watershed. The Ivins gave a joint presentation on the effort with Justus and Lowry Redd of La Livestock and Luis Trevizo of BLT Cattle, both headquartered in La Sal, as the La Sal Ranchers have also utilized this new method of controlling cattle.
Navajo Nation moves to purchase Gouldings Lodge
In late 2023, the Navajo Nation moved closer to purchasing Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley. On October 17 members of the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation for the purchase of Gouldings for $59.5 million.
The legislation was sponsored by Council Delegate Herman Daniels Jr. and was later signed by President Buu Nygren, with the sale pending a 90-day due diligence process.
A presentation given to the Navajo Nation Council in July estimated the Navajo Nation would generate an annual return of $7.4 million, a return of investment of 12.45 percent for the tribe.
Part of the estimated return includes $3.5 million annually in profit-sharing income, $1,468,000 in expansion sinking fund (the required fund’s purpose is for the expansion of the asset used to build new facilities), and the tax benefit of $2,443,960 annually. 
The annual tax benefit would occur if the tax authority was changed from the State of Utah to the Navajo Nation or if the land is put in trust. The purchase, if finalized, would occur during the 100th year anniversary of Goulding’s Lodge.
San Juan Heritage Language Center honors Tibbitts
Longtime county educator Kent Tibbitts was honored in September by the San Juan School District Heritage Language Resource Center for his many years of service in supporting Navajo Language in the classroom.
Kent was initially employed by San Juan School District in 1964 as the band teacher at the high school. In 1970, he became the first director of what was then known as the Media Center.
Over the years, Kent coordinated Title One funds and was also Bilingual Education director, producing many educational materials used for decades.
Thousands view annular eclipse
Thousands of visitors and local residents alike enjoyed the annular solar eclipse that occurred across the San Juan County sky on October 14.
The “ring of fire” eclipse was viewable from most areas of the county, with the most significant impact on a swath near Mexican Hat and Bluff. Hundreds of cars and thousands of visitors were reported to have journeyed to the county to view the eclipse. 
The Town of Bluff and a San Juan County mobile emergency response center at Sand Island said there were few reported challenges. Local government entities spent significant efforts to prepare for any challenges presented by the influx of thousands of visitors.
Annular eclipse is set to arrive on October 14
Ahead of the Annular Eclipse, county officials reported near 100 percent capacity at local lodging, and shared ways for residents to prepare for the event.
Suggestions included preparing for large crowds, making sure to have proper eyewear to safely view the eclipse and knowing that Indigenous residents may not view the eclipse.

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