In life, they inseparably played little girl games, these four young cousins and their friend.
In death, they were not separated.The Smith sisters were to be buried side by side in the same casket, as were their cousins, the Richardsons. The four girls will share the same gravesite in Valley View Memorial Park. McKell Hedden was also to be buried in the cemetery Wednesday.
"Their mothers just couldn't stand the thought of them being apart," said a spokeswoman for Valley View Funeral Home.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday at an LDS Church stake center to say goodbye to the five little girls found dead last Friday, accidentally locked in the trunk of a car.
They were Audrey Smith, 2; Jaesha Smith, 4; their cousins, Alisha Richardson, 6; and Ashley Richardson, 3; and Hedden, 5, their friend.
The stake center was filled with floral arrangements - some in the shape of hearts - in yellow, pink, red and white for the funeral. The chapel, which can accommodate 1,400 people, was filled.
The building was also the site of Tuesday evening's viewing. There were so many mourners that they had to wait in an overflow area to visit with the grieving families. Tucked in the two plain wood caskets and one pink and white casket were some of the girls' favorite toys.
The West Valley neighborhood where all five girls lived and played and the community at large have been devastated by the accident. Many people have driven by the Smiths' home and left flowers and balloons as tokens of their sympathy.
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, Frances, also drove by the Smith home Sunday. In prepared remarks, President Monson called the site holy ground.
"Tears filled our eyes and compassion flowed from our hearts," he said. "Such has been the experience of literally thousands who attended the viewing last evening and again this morning. This vast throng today demonstrates that families do not grieve alone."
President Monson asked the families to not think "if only," a phrase that is counterproductive to peace and healing.
"I testify to you that all we knew and loved about Alisha, Ashley, McKell, Audrey and Jaesha continues. Their spirits have simply returned to that Heavenly Father who gave them life."
The funeral's opening hymn was "I Am a Child of God," which brought tears to many in the congregation.
The funeral, which was held at Deseret News press time, will be covered in detail in Thursday's edition of the paper.
The death of the five girls has been ruled accidental. Utah State Medical Examiner Dr. Todd Grey said they died from heat stroke. Officials estimate the temperature inside the trunk was in excess of 140 degrees.
Neighbors and police had searched for the five girls, who were last seen about 2:30 p.m. Friday, for over an hour when they were discovered. At one point during the search, Dixie Smith, the mother of Audrey and Jaesha, drove the car through the neighborhood, not knowing the girls were in the trunk.
The tragedy in Utah pushed the nation's toll to 11 for the number of young children who have climbed into car trunks and suffocated or died of the heat this year. On Aug. 2, two boys in Greensboro, Pa., died after using the keys to get into the trunk of their parents' car. On July 13, four young cousins in Gallup, N.M., died after climbing into a trunk that had been left open.
The deaths have recharged discussions on whether auto manufacturers should place release switches in the trunks of cars. A San Francisco couple who was kidnapped and forced into their car trunk in 1995 has led the battle. They formed the Trunk Releases Urgently Needed Coalition, or TRUNC.
The couple knows of more than 625 cases of people being locked in trunks. About one-quarter of them were fatal.
However, General Motors Corp. spokesman Kyle Johnson said studies suggest criminals would act more violently if they knew victims could escape from the trunk. Also, Johnson said the releases would send the wrong message to children, implying that it was all right to play in the trunk.
"It's not really an engineering or cost issue. It truly comes down to being a highway safety issue," Johnson said.
The American Automobile Manufacturers Association cites a 1984 study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that concluded that trunk releases would be impractical because "the likelihood of an internal hood latch lever being utilized is remote."
Barry Felrice, AAMA director of regulatory affairs, questioned whether children could even figure out how to operate a trunk release. Felrice added that it could be dangerous to tell children about the releases because they might conclude it was OK to get into the trunk.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., wrote an amendment this spring requiring NHTSA to study the issue again. NHTSA spokeswoman Liz Neblett said the study, due in 18 months, will also examine the recent children's deaths. Past studies focused only on crime victims.
"Meanwhile, we're recommending in light of recent tragedies that cars be kept locked and keys be kept out of the reach of children, and that parents teach their children about the dangers of playing in trunks," Neblett said.