Family Members Holding On To Hope As Search For Missing Saratoga Springs Teens Continues

May 8, 2020, 9:58 PM | Updated: 10:32 pm

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah – As the third day of the search for two teenage girls who didn’t return from a trip to Utah Lake ended, family members said they won’t leave any rock unturned and they were moving to a land search.

“There are just no words. We couldn’t absorb anything — it was just too difficult for us,” said Jimmy Hernandez, Sophia’s father.

Priscilla Bienkowski, 18, and Sophia Hernandez, 17, went to the Knolls area of the lake Wednesday, the same day high winds capsized a group of kayakers that had to be rescued.

The two never returned.

“It doesn’t feel real, everything feels like a tunnel vision,” said Stephanie Cowles and Jonathan Guaman, Priscilla’s older brother and sister.

Their parents said the young women stopped to purchase two inflatable ducks at a Wal-Mart in Saratoga Springs, then made their way here to the west side of the lake.

“She had been here a few times earlier this week,” Cowles said.

But the girls never checked back in with their parents, something relatives said was unlike them.

“With the storm coming, I’m sure they would have seen it, heard something about it, looking at the water, they are smart girls. They had common sense,” said Guaman.

After several phone calls, the girls’ family members said a fisherman passed by around 7:30 p.m. and heard their phones ringing next to their belongings and answered the calls.

“The phones were right there on a blanket next to the lake, but the girls were no one was around,” Hernandez said, explaining that the fisherman told them he had been nearby at the lake since 5 p.m. and told them he never saw the girls.

Since then, search and rescue crews have been working tirelessly around the clock.

With calmer winds Friday, they were able to bring in boats with underwater sonar technology and a boat with a remotely operated vehicle to comb the lake floor. Search and rescue crews were focusing on an area 8.5 by 2 miles wide, where the girls’ inflatable ducks were found.

“No news is good news for us, so our hopes are up high that they are out there somewhere still,” Hernandez said.

Investigators said, per protocol, they were searching in and around the water, particularly in the areas where their floatation devices were found.

”People on horseback, people on foot are doing some searching in those areas,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. “There is a possibility, however slim it might be, that they got off the lake either on their own or they got off the lake and somebody did something with them or to them. We don’t have exact information telling us one way or the other.

A vigil was being planned for Saturday evening at 8 p.m. at the Knolls area.

Family members will also be handing out flyers near a Dollar Tree in Saratoga Springs, where they found Sophia’s car. It appears the young women rode together in Priscilla’s car to get to the Lake.

Officials with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said one person spotted them on the lake, but they were asking anyone else who might have seen them to call Central Utah Dispatch at 801-794-3970.

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Family Members Holding On To Hope As Search For Missing Saratoga Springs Teens Continues