COLORADO CITY, Ariz — Five people, mostly teens, were killed and a sixth seriously injured in a rollover crash in a remote area along the Arizona Strip.
The crash scene wasn't discovered until many hours after it occurred.
Most, if not all of the victims, were affiliated or previously affiliated with the Fundamentalist LDS Church, which is based in the area. According to a relative and investigators, the group may have been in the desert to celebrate a birthday and escape from parental and religious strictures.
The accident wasn't reported to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office until 4:43 p.m. on Wednesday. But investigators believe the crash happened sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
A Chevy Suburban rolled on Big Warren Road, a dirt road approximately 17 miles south of Centennial Park, after failing to make a turn, said Mohave County sheriff's spokeswoman Trish Carter. Investigators were looking at whether alcohol was a factor in the accident, she said.
There was a lot of beer at the scene and the group may have been out celebrating a birthday, Mohave County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jim McCabe told 3TV in Arizona. He also noted there were high winds in the area that night.
Monica Joy Bistline, 17, of Apple Valley, Utah; Carl Otto Nathaniel Holm, 22, of Hildale, Utah; Rachel Anne Colgrove, 17, of Cane Beds, Ariz.; Virgel Taylor Roundy, 15, of Colorado City, Ariz.; and Jamison Holm Timpson, 19, of Colorado City, Ariz., were all killed at the scene.
Holm was driving the vehicle when it crashed.
Nakita Timpson, Jamison's sister who turned 18 on Wednesday, was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, where relatives said doctors were considering whether to amputate one of her legs.
Nakita Timpson's uncle, Richard Holm, said his niece was lucky to survive.
"I've heard that she was 18 hours pinned in that vehicle with one of the dead boys wedged against her somehow where she couldn't get out and that may have saved her life. If she could have got out, she likely would have got out and froze to death," he said Thursday.
Two of the others who died in the crash were Richard Holm's nephews.
The victims were a mix of sons and daughters from people who have made headlines within the FLDS Church. The three male passengers in the vehicle were said to be "Lost Boys," kicked out of the Utah-based FLDS Church run by Warren Jeffs, Holm said. Colgrove's mother is a former member of the polygamous sect, which is based in the border towns of Hildale and Colorado City.
Many of those killed were pressured not to associate with each other, but Holm said they could get out of the spotlight and socialize by driving out into the desert.
"It's a large area and to just get out away, no scrutiny, endless miles of dirt road. In this condition it can be deadly, mixed with high speed," Richard Holm said.
"There's trauma within their lives and to have some of their kids taken in death while there's disagreements and distance between parents through religious divisions, that's sad," he said.
"These kids were out hiding or wanting to be away where they would not be harassed or hassled."
Carter did not know who called police or who found the bodies. The area where the group was found is surrounded by miles of desert. Those familiar with the area say traffic there is very rare and motorists are often encouraged to take extra water and gas in case they have an emergency because it could be a while before another vehicle drives by.
McCabe said red flags were raised when members of the group didn't show up for school the next morning.