Esther Nakajjigo is a former Uganda activist who was decapitated this summer at the Utah Arches National Park.
In June, Nakajjigo was visiting the park with her new husband, Ludovic Michaud, Moab Sun News reported. The couple, who lived together in Denver, Colorado, were exiting the park on June 13 to get ice cream when a metal gate swung loose and pierced their car, the newspaper continued.
Nakajjigo, who was 25 at the time, was “needlessly decapitated,” according to a wrongful death administrative claim obtained by NBC News. Her husband was not harmed, the station added.
The wrongful death claim was served on October 22 and seeks more than $270 million in damages from the National Park Service, the outlet reported. It argues that park employees only needed to install the gate with an $8 padlock to prevent it from killing “a young woman influencer destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, Philanthropist Melinda Gates, or Oprah Winfrey,” NBC News said.
Nakajjigo was a celebrated human rights activist in Uganda, her home country, Moab Sun News continued. She earned numerous global awards and traveled to the U.S. to “further her education,” the newspaper reported.
The young activist participated in programs at Drexel University in Philadelphia as a Mandela Washington Fellow and at the Watson Institute in Boulder, Colorado as a Luff Peace Fellow, Moab Sun News said.
Here’s what you need to know about Esther Nakajjigo:
1. Nakajjigo Was Named Uganda’s Ambassador for Women & Girls
According to NBC News, Nakajjigo was named as Uganda’s ambassador for women and girls.
Her passions included lowering teen pregnancy, as well as creating two reality television shows that “empowered women,” the outlet reported.
“Saving Innocence,” one of the shows, “depicted teenage girls from urban areas helping teen moms in rural communities go back to school,” NBC News said.
2. Nakajjigo Used Her College Tuition Money to Create a Nonprofit Community Health Center at 17 Years Old
At 17 years old, Nakajjigo used her college tuition money to start a nonprofit community health center, NBC News reported.
She founded the Princess Diana Health Center, Moab Sun News continued. The organization was tailored toward reducing the risk of teenage pregnancy among teens.
3. Nakajjigo Met Michaud in 2019 Through a Dating App
The Uganda native met Michaud in June 2019 through a dating app in Aurora, Colorado, according to NBC News.
Michaud, who hails from France, told the station during his first interview since his wife’s death that he “just saw her as a smart person who loved to laugh.”
“I found her really interesting. I didn’t know who she was at first,” the 26-year-old expressed to NBC News.
The two married in March in a courthouse ceremony and had plans to have a big wedding in Uganda once it was safe to travel again, the outlet reported.
4. The Ugandan Government Forbade in April the Repatriation of the Remains of Ugandans Who Pass Away Abroad Over Fears of COVID-19
According to Moab Sun News, the Ugandan government on April 19 forbade the repatriation of the remains of Ugandans who pass away abroad over fears of the coronavirus.
Nakajjigo’s family and friends in Uganda started a petition to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Health in the country to make an exception for the young activist, the newspaper continued.
Wilson Jaga, head of communications for the Office of Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, advocated for her return in a statement obtained by the outlet, writing:
We have also petitioned the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda requesting that H. E. Esther Nakajjigo’s short lived but very instrumental life be celebrated and Essie accorded a State Funeral as a symbol of recognition of small interventions made by young people to make their country a great nation.
5. Nakajjigo’s Death Isn’t an Isolated Incident
Gate accidents similar to Nakajjigo’s have happened across the country, according to NBC News.
One also took place on federal government property in the 80s, the outlet continued, when a U.S. Forest Service road closure gate impaled a California camper.
“Randy Rost was injured when the camper pickup truck in which he was riding was impaled on a piece of gate in the Stanislaus National Forest, California,” according to a court document. “The gate was owned by the United States government and anchored on government property.”