INSTAGRAM

Family Hopes To Avoid Future Tragedies With New Initiative At Utah Lake

Sep 27, 2020, 4:01 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2020, 5:58 am

PROVO, Utah — Two teens drowned after getting caught in a surprise storm on Utah Lake earlier this summer. Their families have now partnered with the Utah Lake Commission for a life jacket drive as part of a new initiative they hope will prevent future tragedies.

“It’s been extremely difficult still,” said Santiago Hernandez, father of Sophia Hernandez.

It has been nearly five months since 18-year-old Priscilla Bienkowski and 17-year-old Sophia Hernandez lost their lives.

“You just have this massive whole in your heart, and you just have to learn to live with it,” said Priscilla’s sister, Stephanie Cowles.

Family members said they’re constantly flooded with memories.

“A lot of things do remind us of her,” said Santiago. “The kids around, where she used to work at — anything that we would see, eat, feel, touch — it just reminds us of her.”

Those memories are especially vivid on the waters of Utah Lake where the teens were swept away by an unexpected storm.

“I don’t think that you can ever recover from something like that,” said Stephanie.

But the teens’ families have used their pain as a driving force for good.

“We want everybody to be safe out there,” said Santiago. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody.”

After the teens’ bodies were found, their families decided they wanted to do something to help.

Priscilla’s older sister, Stephanie, came up with the concept of a life jacket station after hearing that many teens who go on the lake don’t wear them because they consider them expensive.

“The cost of a life jacket for the cost of a life, there is no comparison,” Cowles said.

The families have now teamed up with the Utah Lake Commission to support a life jacket drive.

“Nationally, as much as 80 percent of boating related fatalities — according to the Utah State Parks — could’ve been prevented if someone was wearing a life jacket.” said Utah Lake Commission member Sam Braegger. “As Priscilla’s family said, the idea is ‘Take a jacket to save your life, and leave one to save another.’”

“That hit home because I truly believe that if the girls were wearing life jackets, they could’ve been found,” said Stephanie.

People can drop off new or lightly-used life jackets at the drive, which runs from Sept. 30 — Oct. 7.

“We decided to do it at the end of the season because people may no longer be in need of their jackets or looking to replace them for next year,” Braegger said.

Life jackets can be dropped off at these six locations:

  • American Fork Marina
  • Lindon Marina
  • Orem City Offices
  • Provo Recreation Center
  • Saratoga Springs Marina
  • Utah Lake State Park

The Commission will also be accepting monetary donations and volunteers interested in helping install the life jacket racks. More information can be found at the Commission’s website.

With the growing popularity of Utah Lake among teens, the goal was to set up loaner stations all around the lake, including the Knolls area where the girls set off.

“We want to be here for whenever anything is needed,” said Maria Hernandez, Sophia’s mom.

The Hernandez and Bienkowski families said it’s how they want to remember their daughters.

“This will be a great calling for everyone for us to do this project,” said Santiago.

“I just really hope it helps,” said Stephanie. “If it can help one person, it will make it all worth it.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Instagram

FILE PHOTO: The Chickadee lift is pictured at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Oct...
Michael Houck and Brooke Williams

Avalanche triggered at Snowbird resort, no injuries reported

Rescue crews responded to the Snowbird Ski Resort after an avalanche was triggered on a trail. 
2 days ago
Lindsay Lohan thinks you should try Pilk.
(Pepsi)...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

Pepsi wants you to drink soda mixed with milk this holiday season

Pepsi launched a campaign Thursday encouraging customers to try the combination of milk and pepsi for a holiday concoction.
4 days ago
Mauna Loa spewing lava on Tuesday. (Courtesy: Paradise Helicopters via )...
Holly Yan and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Lava spilling toward key Hawaiian highway, but the gov says it’s safe to visit the Big Island

The world's largest active volcano is shooting fountains of lava more than 100 feet high and sending a river of molten rock down toward the main highway of Hawaii's Big Island.
4 days ago
(Courtesy: Baron Edwards)...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Witness recounts ‘miraculous’ Moab rescue after BASE jumper crashes into cliff

Incredible video shows the terrifying moments a BASE jumper crashed into a cliff in Moab, then hung in the air high above the ground, his parachute stuck in the cliffside.
5 days ago
...
Eliza Pace

Utah family creates, ‘Angels Among Us’ Christmas tree in tribute to daughter, mother

A Utah mother explains the importance of their tree in the Festival of Trees after losing her daughter shortly after a C-section.
6 days ago
...
Eliza Pace

Teens build intricate ‘Gingerbread Cathedral,’ get out of writing essay

When senior students, Ethan Williams, Namoa Tuikolongahau, and James Southworth were assigned to either write a three-page paper or create a gingerbread house, they created something even bigger.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Family Hopes To Avoid Future Tragedies With New Initiative At Utah Lake