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OGDEN, Utah -- Flying J Inc., which operates 168 travel plazas and fuel stops in 41 states and three Canadian provinces, has lost a key figure in its refining business.
Jeffrey Keith Utley, senior vice president of refining operations and Big West Oil LLC, died Friday from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Utley, 48, had been with the company for 19 years and Ogden, Utah-based Flying J's president, J. Phillip Adams, said many people were anxious to do business with them simply because of Utley's presence.
“Jeff exemplified everything we all wanted Flying J to stand for -- the highest qualities of integrity, work ethic and unselfishness,” Adams said. “He was admired by all for his total consideration, respect and appreciation for others both inside and outside of the company. Jeff had a strong impact on the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact, always leaving a positive and lasting impression … For those of us who had the opportunity to work directly with him, we were privileged to experience an unshakable confidence no matter what the circumstances. In fact, I think the only thing holding Jeff back was our ability to build the support around him fast enough to keep up with him.”
Utley was traveling with a group of colleagues about 5:30 p.m. Friday when a mule deer collided with his vehicle, the company reported. The group's final destination was Livingston, Mont., where they were scheduled to arrive the next day.
Utley's wife, Kathleen, was a passenger on the bike and suffered minor injuries. She was treated and released from Eastern Region Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Aside from Kathleen, Utley is survived by their three children: Eric, 27; Jesse, 24; and Stefanie, 15.
Utley started his career with Flying J during the company's 1986 acquisition of the U.S. downstream assets of Husky Canada, which included a refinery in North Salt Lake City, Utah, where Utley was employed as chief process engineer. He was promoted to refinery manager in 1987. Most recently, Utley was instrumental in Flying J's acquisition of Shell Oil Company's refinery in Bakersfield, Calif., company officials said.
He attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in chemical and fuels engineering. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, has served on the State of Utah Hazardous Waste Board and is a current member of Utah's Air Quality Board.
Adams said Flying J will continue to move forward, though it will never be able to replace Utley and all that he was able to contribute to the company.
“I know Jeff wants Flying J to keep moving forward and we will move as quickly as we can, getting those things in order that will allow us to do that,” Adams said. “Individuals and talents like Jeff Utley come along once in a lifetime and we all need to understand that we will never be able to replace Jeff and all of his unique qualities. However, I know everyone will step up to the plate as we move forward.”