ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, Utah (ABC4) – Trial began Monday, Dec. 5 for the death of Ugandan women’s activist Esther Nakajjigo, who died after a gate at Arches National Park swung open and decapitated her.  

The family is in federal court with a $140million-dollar wrongful lawsuit and personal claim lawsuit against the National Park Service. The U.S. already admitted responsibility for the wrongful death of Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo. Now, the argument centers around the amount of money owed to her family and husband. 

In April 2020, 25-year-old Esther Nakajjigo and her husband Ludovic “Ludo” Michaud were driving in their rental car visiting Arches. 

They approached an open gate when a strong wind gust swung the gate, which crashed into their car, decapitating Esther.

Her husband, mother and father sued for hundreds of millions for both economic and non-economic damages. The plaintiffs argued that not only was her death incredibly traumatic, she was a rising star of activism in her country and across the world, creating a huge economic loss. 

The defendants argued there is evidence Esther wanted to help others, but not enrich herself, telling the judge a more adequate amount for her family and husband based on the projection of her earnings and emotional damages is $3.5 million in total.

Esther’s work centered on helping child mothers and empowering women to receive education and financially provide for themselves. 

At just age 17, she became Uganda’s Ambassador for women and girls and quickly became widely known by dignitaries across the world, including the United Nations

Her mentor and colleague Wilson Jaga was scheduled to take the stand Monday as a witness.  

“I want them to learn the power of this girl so that it can be amplified for many other girls across the world,” Jaga said. 

His testimony showcased Esther’s prominence in Uganda, and her ability to fundraise. He cited her creation of a health center, multiple humanitarian reality-TV shows, awards, scholarships and more as generating over $540,000 in 2019.

He described her as full of life, singing, dancing, performing, always creative, driven, shining, someone he’s never seen before and never seen since. 

“Esther was a star. She was one in one million girls who came from nothing to something, and not only for herself, but for millions of girls in Africa,” Jaga said.