A federal judge on Friday said he is still considering a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the families of two men who drowned in Kolob Creek Canyon while on a Scouting expedition in 1993.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene said the motion, filed by the National Park Service and the Washington County Water Conservancy District, has been pending since April. The judge set a trial date of June 18."They are tough motions and I have not been ignoring them. I'm just not quite ready to move on those motions," Greene said during a pretrial conference.
Greene also took objections from both sides over prospective witnesses in the case. Attorneys for the families of Leroy Kim Ellis, 37, and David Fleischer, 27, who drowned while attempting to negotiate the rugged slot canyon with a troop of Boy Scouts, accused the government of overkill by calling multiple witnesses for the same testimony.
"They want to sponsor four witnesses who will all say essentially the same thing," said attorney Robert Clark.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen argued that each of the witnesses would provide special insights, ranging from the needs of youth-group expeditions to specific knowledge of the area where the tragedy occurred.
Greene said he would allow the testimony but would cut it off if it became repetitious.
Government lawyers, in turn, objected to two plaintiff's witnesses who had experienced problems with flooding in the same general area, and blamed it on the National Park Service. Again, Greene said the testimony would be conditionally allowed.
Ellis, Fleischer and a third man, Mike Brewer, took a troop of five teenage Scouts from a South Salt Lake ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the treacherous Kolob Canyon area in July 1993.
Fleischer drowned after jumping into a waterfall-fed pool, and Ellis drowned while attempting to save him. The survivors - including the son of one of the dead men - spent four days on a rock ledge before they were rescued.
Survivors contend Zion National Park and the water district failed to adequately warn Fleischer's group about water releases.