Tragedy struck a Utah family vacationing in California on Friday, leaving five dead and five seriously injured, some critically.
The 35-foot motor home the family was traveling in careened off the road while northbound on I-15 near Barstow, Calif.By Saturday, residents of Wellington, a small town about eight miles southeast of Price, were feeling the shock and devastation.
Clement Atwood, 78, a longtime Wellington resident and patriarch of a large family who had retired to Hurricane with his wife, Marcella, was in the motor home, headed back to Utah after a Valentine's Day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, with four of his grown children and their spouses.
About two hours north of Ontario, Calif., the motor home, which witnesses said was in the outside northbound lane, crossed the inside lane and plowed into a 4-foot-high dirt berm that separates the road from the southbound lanes.
Both the Atwoods were killed, as were daughters Cleora Clark, 50, of Price and Karen Jewkes, 55, of Sandy. Jewkes' husband, Joseph Jewkes Jr., 59, was also killed.
Though Clemont Atwood had moved away from his hometown of Wellington years ago to live in Hurricane, the impact he and his children have had on the community is unmistakable. While the Clarks and Atwood's daughter Ruth Ann Dinkelman and her husband Jay make their homes in Wellington - both couples have four children - residents are also well-acquainted with those who moved away years ago, including those who either died or were injured in Friday's accident.
Wellington (pop: 2,500) is a town where almost everyone is on a first-name basis and where children from families have intermarried, blurring the line between the terms "family" and "friend."
"We are intertwined," said Asay Pierce, Clemont Atwood's brother-in-law. "We've always said when you live in Wellington, you're all related in some way. It's a tough road for everybody here."
Cleora Clark, the only current Wellington resident to die in the accident, operated her own home health-care business, according to Boyd Thayn, bishop of the Wellington 2nd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "She's a very caring person," he said. "She even took patients to her home. Not long ago, she picked up a hitchhiker on her way to church and later bought him a bus ticket to Salt Lake."
Thayn added that it's going to take some time for residents to come to grips with the loss. "It's a family that's had a big impact on the community," he said. "There's a lot of concern here."
Jewkes and his wife were both raised in Price but raised most of their own 10 children in Sandy, their daughter Melannie Vicks said Saturday.
Vicks and most of her siblings and their families gathered at her parents' home Saturday to talk and comfort each other. A telephone call from an uncle - one of three who didn't make the trip with Vicks' parents, informed Vicks of the accident Friday night.
"This was my mom's dream to go to Mexico and she finally talked my dad into going," Vicks said. "This is devastating."
Traveling with Karen Jewkes' siblings and parents was something the Sandy couple did often, Vicks said. At least once a year, they piled in the motor home and hit the road for places like St. George, Las Vegas or Branson, Mo.
"They were always together," she said.
No one in the family had spoken with the travelers since the group left for the cruise last week, Vicks said. As of Saturday, different branches of the family had been dispatched to California to attend to surviving family members or to Price to care for the young children in the family whose parents were in the wreck.
"I haven't even talked to any of my aunts' children so I don't know how they're doing," said Vicks. "This is going to be devastating for them."
Of the survivors, Gary Atwood, 43, and his wife Patricia Atwood, 38, both of Price, were listed in critical condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Saturday, nursing supervisor B.J. Baer said. Both were being treated in the intensive care unit and breathing with the help of respirators, she said.
At San Bernadino County Medical Center, Ruth Ann Dinkelman, age unknown, was still listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit, a spokeswoman said. Jay Dinkelman, 38, had been upgraded to stable condition after surgery on his left leg Saturday morning.
Alva Clark, 57, whom family members called "Smokey," was treated for his injuries and released from the San Bernadino hospital Saturday, she said.
Bishop Leon Davis of the Wellington 1st Ward has spent countless hours with the Dinkelman children the last two days. He praised Atwood and his many children and grandchildren.
"There's not a better family," he said. "This tragedy has affected nearly everybody who lives here. It's incredible how many people whose lives they've touched . . . You wouldn't believe the number of people who have stopped by or called. There's a lot of people who want to help."
The five killed all died at the scene from multiple internal injuries and broken bones, said San Bernadino County deputy coroner Steven Foster.
It appears none of the 10 were wearing seat belts, Foster said.
Police are still trying to piece together what happened to cause the motor home to veer off the road, California Highway Patrol officer John Kreitzman said. None of the survivors have been able to provide much information, but police believe Joseph Jewkes was driving the motor home while his family members played Scrabble in the back.