COVERED BRIDGE, Utah County — Residents in this small Utah County community are mourning the loss of two teenage girls killed after being hit by a train Saturday evening.
Essa Ricker and Kelsea Webster, both 15, were killed in the accident, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office. Kelsea's sister, 13-year-old Savannah Webster, was critically injured and rushed to Primary Children's Medical Center. She was undergoing surgery Sunday and remained in critical, but stable condition.
"It's very devastating," said Bruce Hiskey, who serves as stake president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the area. "These are vibrant, good young women. They were having a beautiful time on a beautiful fall day, and it's just a tragedy this happened."
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the three girls were taking pictures on the railroad tracks just off U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon near the small community of Covered Bridge.
The teens apparently knew one train was coming but did not realize another train was approaching from the opposite direction and were caught between them, Cannon said. Moments before the accident, one of the girls had posted, "standing right by a train ah haha this is awesome" on her Facebook page.
One train either hit the girls or blew them into the path of the other, he said, and it's possible they were hit by both trains. Cannon said noise from the train may have prevented the girls from hearing the second one.
"Or maybe they realized it was there, and it was just too late for them to get away," he said. "We just don't know. But there's just a thunderous noise as they're standing that close to the train."
Mary Scobell, who lives in Covered Bridge, said dozens of trains pass through the area every day. Locals know there are two sets of tracks in the area, she said,.
"We always tell our visitors, if there's a train and it goes past, you still don't get on the tracks," Schobell said. "You count a few seconds, look right and left to make sure (another) train isn't coming."
Kelsea and Savannah Webster moved to Covered Bridge from Sonora, Calif., about two months ago, Cannon said.
Kelsea Webster and Ricker both attended Diamond Fork Junior High School in Spanish Fork.
Kelsea Webster and Ricker both attended Diamond Fork Junior High School in Spanish Fork. A Facebook page has been created encouraging their classmates to wear their "Best Dress for Essa and Kelsea" Monday in honor of Ricker and Webster.
Officials plan to have grief counselors available throughout the Nebo School District Monday, but especially at the two schools the girls attended in Spanish Fork.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Wendy Leonard