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Family, friends mourn the loss of ‘fearless’ Farr West teen Doc Butler

June 29, 2017
Left to right, brothers Jesye, Doc and Wyatt Butler pose for a photo at 18-year-old Doc Butler's Fremont High School graduation. (Photo supplied/Brandon Butler)

Story by ANNA BURLESON • Standard-Examiner Staff

FARR WEST — Doc Butler’s parents and friends describe him as fearless.

He could do the craziest of jumps on his dirt bikes, slide down hills on custom-built drifting tricycles with his friends and attempt a couple of flips on his skis.

One time, he even ran all the way up Angels Landing barefoot at Zion National Park. Then he ran all the way back down.

“He was the type of kid you couldn’t tell not to do something because he’d do it just to prove it to them,” Doc Butler’s brother Wyatt said.

When the 18-year-old was put on stage at Fremont High School only about a month ago as a candidate for senior cotillion royalty, he was asked what his biggest fear was. 

“My biggest fear would have to be the fear of dying because there is so much stuff I would like to do before I die, like skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing, riding 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,” Brandon Butler said, reading his now-deceased son’s words from his cell phone. “Cause you never know when it’s your time to go, that’s why I live every day to the fullest and I only wish I can leave this world a little better than I found it.”

Dakota “Doc” Butler died June 20 as a result of injuries at his summer job. 

Myers Mortuary funeral counselor Curtis Smout said it was one of the largest funeral services they’ve ever had, with about 750 people attending the viewing and between 400 and 450 people attending the funeral Tuesday, June 27.

RELATED: Dakota "Doc" Keith Butler

Sitting in the family’s home two days after the funeral, Doc’s mother, father and two brothers fondly told stories about him.

“Wyatt and Jesye are kind of alike,” Brandon Butler said, gesturing to his remaining sons on the couch beside him. “When they go to do something they’ll look at it, figure it out then do it. Doc would do it and figure it out as he’s doing it. He was always jumping in head-first with anything he did.”

The accident

Doc was hit by a 1,000-lb. steel beam while he was working at Bowden Construction Co. June 19. It was his summer job, Brandon Butler said.

Centerville Police Department Lt. Von Steemblik was the first law enforcement offer to arrive at the scene.

Steemblik said a crane had been moving the beams to and from the teenager’s work station. Chains attached to the crane caught on one of the beams, pulling it into Doc and crushing him. 

Centerville police conducted an initial investigation and Steemblik said no crime was involved.

Police are turning their information over to the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Utah Labor Commission.

OSH Director Cameron Ruppe said staff visited the scene and an investigation is ongoing. It’s unclear how long it will take, but Ruppe said an effort is usually made to close cases in 30 to 45 days.

Adventures with Doc

Doc’s mother Michelle Butler said he had always been fearless. One time he inadvertently grabbed a handful of bees from a covered spigot on the outside of their home and while she panicked, the little boy simply let them go and wasn’t stung once. 

“As a toddler you would say, ‘No, no,’ and he would just look at you like, ‘Oh yeah,’” Michelle Butler said.

Doc Butler, 18, poses with his 1995 Camaro, the interior of which he lined with black fur. Butler's father Brandon said he and his son helped build the car from the parts of two broken-down Camaros he found in junkyards. (Photo supplied/Staci Wilson)
It’s a tradition in the Butler family for the boys to work on their grandfather’s farm and he, in turn, helps them build and repair their own cars.

Brandon Butler said the three of them took parts Camaro parts from two different broken-down cars and built the shiny blue 1995 Chevy Z28 Camaro Doc would become known for, customized with a black fur interior because as he would joke with his dad, “the chicks dig it.”

“That’s the one person you’d feel comfortable with going fast in a car,” said Ty Wilson, one of his best friends.

Wyatt Butler’s car of choice is a tricked-out Honda Civic.

“We never really raced,” he said. “I always claimed mine would win and he always claimed his would win. But his would win. I just never told him that.”

Doc was well known at Fremont High for being what his brother Wyatt Butler called the “hype-up kid.” His enthusiasm at school events earned him the school’s Spirit Head and he took his duties to heart.

“He was the one pumping the football team up and the crowd up,” Wyatt Butler said. “He was that kid. That’s what most people knew him for.”

Fremont High teacher Clyde Ellertson has taught all of the Butler boys including Doc and said he was always friendly with everyone.

“He involved people,” Ellertson said. “He never was the least bit disrespectful and was very trustworthy. He had a great deal of integrity. If he said he was going to do something, it was done.”

One of Doc’s best friends, Tanner Neely, called him “wise.”

“If you were with him trying to solve a problem, he was the person you want with you to help you solve that problem and you knew it was going to be solved right,” Neely said.

Doc enjoyed the outdoors, especially with his tight-knit group of friends.

Brandon Butler said he once overheard Doc and his friends talking about doing backflips on their skis and warned him not to try. He later found out his son had tried not only a backflip, but a double backflip.

“I got after him about it and he said, ‘Well, you said nothing about a double,’” he said, laughing.

Brandon Butler said his son was adventurous, but also generous. He welded drifting tricycles for his friends long before he bothered to build one for himself. It’s painted bright teal blue and sits in the family’s back yard.

He was also known for taking the time to talk to or play with his friends’ younger siblings and parents. He had an innate ability to bring people together from all walks of life and all social circles.

He also had a bright future. His parents said Doc was very technically-minded and was always taking things apart and putting them back together. He planned to attend Weber State University in the fall.

“He was the dude you knew he was going to have a smoking hot wife and a big house with lots of toys,” Neely said.

“Yeah,” Wilson said. “The most cars and the most motorcycles. The fastest cars.”

Doc Butler's friends carry his casket at his funeral June 27, 2017. Butler, 18, died after being struck with a steel beam while working at Bowden Construction in Centerville. (Photo supplied/Staci Wilson)
Doing it for Doc

The night of Doc’s death, his classmates and family gathered at the Neely house en masse. A memorial drive was organized shortly after, which began at the Farr West Smith and Edwards.

“We pulled into Smith and Edwards and we thought they were open because they had so many cars there,” Brandon Butler said.

Looking back, his family said it almost seems like Doc was trying to tell them his time was coming.

His graduation announcements say, “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time!”

Instead of the usual “I love you mom,” he gave his mom a heartfelt, detailed card for her last birthday. About a month ago he even called his older brother Wyatt just to talk and said, “I love you,” before hanging up.

“Us brothers are always best friends no matter what, but we grow apart a little bit and don’t tell each other we love each other all the time,” he said. “It makes me think he kind of knew something. I don’t know.”

Spending the afternoon together a couple of days after the funeral, Doc Butler’s close friends remembered his sense of adventure and joked about how he was always the best. How he always had to win.

“He just had to be first,” family friend Kristen Neely said. “That’s what I’ve decided, maybe, about heaven. He had to get there first.”

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.