SALT LAKE CITY — An LDS missionary from Washington was killed and her Utah companion was seriously injured in a vehicle crash Friday in Georgia.
The two women were serving in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. Sister Natalie Ann Barnard, 20, of Snoqualmie, Washington was killed and Sister Rachel Beckstrom, 19, of Tooele, was hospitalized with serious injuries. Beckstrom's father, Curtis, said the two were very close.
"They appeared to have become best friends and had plans for after the mission and the whole nine yards. They were really excited," he said Saturday.
Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released the following statement:
"Sister Barnard has been serving since October of 2014 in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. She died as a result of injuries from an auto accident Friday afternoon. We extend our love and prayers in behalf of their families and loved ones at this difficult time."
The Barnard family said in a statement that they are "deeply saddened by the loss of our loving daughter, sister and granddaughter. Her loving family and all of her friends will miss her larger-than-life smile and the radiance that made her instantly lovable."
Beckstrom had been in the mission field since February. As of Saturday afternoon, she remained unresponsive, as she had been since the accident, her father said. She received multiple fractures and was not breathing well. Her parents and sister were expected to arrive in Atlanta Saturday to be with her.
Curtis Beckstrom said the accident occurred in an area with poor visibility. Emotion could be heard in his voice as he expressed sympathy for the Barnard family and for the driver of the truck that struck the missionaries' car.
"My concern is for her companion who passed away and the driver of the truck. I feel bad for them," he said. "I feel bad for Sister Barnard and her family. I can't imagine what they're going through."
His daughter and Barnard were both "enjoying going through the area book and learning sort of the area together and having what appeared like a really, really good time. They both had smiles on all the pics they sent," he said.
More than 85,000 full-time LDS missionaries are serving in 407 missions around the world. Generally, they are far safer than their peers, according to the executive director of the faith's Missionary Department, Elder David F. Evans of the LDS Church's First Quorum of the Seventy, in a video the church released in September 2013, citing World Health Organization statistics.
A statement that accompanied the video said, "The church does everything it can to ensure the safety of its missionaries, including providing training in personal safety and good health practices, repeated instruction for missionaries on auto and bicycle safety and ongoing consultation with local church leaders about the safety of specific areas and neighborhoods."
The Barnard family said they draw "comfort from our belief that Natalie is with our Heavenly Father and that she continues the Lord’s work with the same vigor with which she entered the mission field."
They added: "Natalie was driven by a deep conviction to serve a mission. She loved the people of Georgia and served them faithfully. She would not have wanted to be anywhere else than serving in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. We love our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we know that through him and his eternal sacrifice that we'll someday soon see our beloved Natalie again. It is with this knowledge that we have the comfort and courage necessary to mourn and celebrate the life of our dear Natalie."
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