Two Arkansas high school students and three of their friends were killed on a road trip in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on a Wyoming highway, authorities said.
A series of crashes that led to the tragic incident began after a driver, allegedly under the influence, was traveling the wrong way on Interstate 80 in his Dodge Ram and hit a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck, the Wyoming Highway Patrol said.
Police say a second commercial truck then swerved down the median to avoid the Dodge, crossed the freeway and slammed into a Ford F-150, killing high school students Suzy Prime and Ava Grace Luplow, as well as the recent graduates Andrea Prime, Salomon Correa and Maggie Franco, according to the Pulaski County Special School District.
Suzy and Andrea Prime were sisters. All five were currently or in the past connected to Sylvan Hills High School, the district said.
The collision was so severe that both trucks caught fire, highway patrol said.
The ages of the victims ranged between 18 and 23, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
Some of the other people involved in the series of crashes were injured, although state police did not specify the number in its press release.
The suspected wrong-way driver was arrested on suspicion of impaired driving. Further charges could be brought against the driver, who has not been identified, after further investigation.
The five youngsters were on their way home after spending a week in Wyoming where they visited Jackson Hole Bible College, according to Faith Bible Fellowship Church, McClatchy Newspapers reported.
Family and friends fondly remember the victims.
A pal of Suzy Prime, Vanessa Arias, recalled her “big, beautiful smile,” according to the Casper Star Tribune. The two played football together.
“I was always looking for her, so I could get next to her and talk or just walk silently with her,” she told the newspaper.
A bakery where Suzy Prime and Luplow worked said in a Facebook post that news of their deaths “broke our hearts” as they tried to come to terms with “this new reality”.
The Humble Crumb Bakery also referenced the two girls’ faith.
“Ava and Suzy loved Jesus and they knew Jesus as their redeeming Savior. They wanted to serve him with their lives and they trusted him for their salvation,” the bakery said. “They are now with HIM in glory and while we grieve their loss, our hearts are also filled with hope.”
The father of sisters Suzy, 18, and Andrea Prime, 23, told the Cowboy State Daily that he would not take revenge on the driver who was accused of driving the wrong way.
“We might get angry and we might get bitter, but all of those things destroy you,” Phil Prime told the outlet. “These feelings don’t help you.”
He reportedly said that the five victims were devout Christians, “and would like their death to be for the honor and glory of the lord, and not as a means to…promote hatred.”
Luplow’s mother, Sarah Wimberly, said in a Facebook post that 18 years with her daughter “just wasn’t enough,” the Casper Star Tribune reported.
“You were my rock. You were your brother’s role model. We honestly don’t know what to do anymore,” Wimberly wrote. “We are lost without you Ava. I’m just lying in your bed and crying.
“I’m trying to get you home where you belong but knowing that I’ll never see your beautiful face again really breaks me.”