A wrongful death trial for Esther Nakajjigo, 25, who was tragically killed on a camping trip with Ludovic Michaud on 13 June 2020, began in Salt Lake City on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Attorneys for Nakajjigo’s family say that the US National Park Service were negligent for not securing a metal traffic control gate that whipped around in high winds and sliced through the car’s passenger door, instantly killing her.
Nakajjigo was described as an “extraordinary warrior for good” who was destined to become a future Princess Diana or Oprah Winfrey in pre-trial court documents.
“She was one in a billion,” family attorney Randi McGinn told the court during opening arguments, according to Fox 13.
US attorneys don’t dispute that park officials were to blame. But they say the amount in damages being sought based on Nakajjigo’s future earning potential was too high, and a figure of $3.5m would be appropriate.
Ms McGinn asked relatives to leave the courtroom before describing in graphic detail how Mr Michaud realised his wife was dead “when he inhaled the copper-tinged smell of blood,” and turned to see she was dead, the AP reported.
The attorney said Nakajjigo was on a path to becoming a non-profit CEO capable of earning an annual salary of more than $1m.
At the age of 17, Nakajjigo was awarded a Woman Achiever Award from the United Nations for fundraising for a children’s hospital, and created a popular reality television series aimed at empowering young mothers.
She was known in Uganda as the “Princess of Hearts” for her internationally acclaimed humanitarian works, and earned a full scholarship for emerging leaders to study at the Watson Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in 2019.
For the government, US assistant attorney Jeffrey Nelson accepted Nakajjigo was an “extraordinary person” but said it was impossible to determine what her future earnings would have been, per the Associated Press.
Michaud and Nakajjigo’s parents are seeking to ensure the US National Park Service secure gates safely so that such a tragedy doesn’t happen again, Ms McGinn told the court.
They want to use the damages award to continue Nakajjigo’s charity work.