Who was Esther Nakajjigo? Activist branded ‘future Princess Diana’ beheaded by gate at Utah national park
The 25-year-old's loved ones have filed a $270-million legal claim against the US National Parks Service
A promising activist thought to be a "future Princess Diana" was reportedly decapitated after an unsecured gate swung into her car. Esther Nakajjigo, 25, and her husband Ludovic Michaud, 26, had just left in their car to go and get ice cream when tragedy befell at Arches National Park in Utah in June this year. Now, Nakajjigo's loved ones have filed a $270-million legal claim against the US National Parks Service, NBC News reported. The claim alleges that the Ugandan's death robbed the world of "a young woman influencer destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, Philanthropist Melinda Gates, or Oprah Winfrey."
Obtained by NBC News, the legal claim featured gruesome details of the human rights activist's death. "The end of the lance-like gate pierced the side of their car and penetrated it like a hot knife through butter," it read in part.
It is claimed that Michaud, who lived with his wife in Denver, Colorado, was unable to swerve in time to avoid the lethal gate. While he didn't sustain injuries, he was drenched in Nakajjigo's blood and continues suffers from PTSD. The legal filing also alleges that the tragedy could have been prevented if only the park had invested in an $8 padlock to secure the gate against the post. Nakajjigo grew up in Uganda and was just 17 when she used her college tuition money to found a nonprofit community education center. She was named the nation's ambassador for women and girls shortly after, when she passionately campaigned to try and reduce teenage pregnancies and increase educational opportunities for women in the country.
The promising human rights firebrand later traveled to the US to further her studies, and was bestowed with the Luff Peace Fellowship from the University of Boulder in Colorado. Nakajjigo and Michaud, a tech worker originally from France, married in March after having met on a dating app last year.
“I found her really interesting. I didn’t know who she was at first,” Michaud told NBC News in his first interview since Nakajjigo’s death. The heartbroken widower has since struggled with flashbacks. “I felt completely meaningless” after losing Nakajjigo, he told the outlet. “I couldn’t work properly for a couple of months. It’s still hard to concentrate, but I try to.”
Michaud noted how everything reminded him of Nakajjigo, including simple tasks they shared at home. “It’s a fear of erasing her, I guess when you use something that she bought or that she ate or that we did together,” he said.
While the National Parks Service is yet to comment on the legal claim against them, the filing paves the way for a full-fledged lawsuit expected to be served in the coming months. In August, loved ones had Nakajjigo’s remains flown back to Uganda. Michaud now hopes her family can continue her altruistic legacy. “She was always willing to help,” he remembered. “I was a couple of inches from dying, but I didn’t, and right now I have a mission: It’s to make sure what she’s done continues," he added.