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 string of crashes that led to the tragic incident began after a driver, allegedly under the influence, was traveling the wrong way down Interstate 80 in his Dodge Ram and struck a passenger vehicle and commercial truck, the Wyoming Highway Patrol said.
Police said a second commercial truck then swerved onto the median to avoid the Dodge, crossed over the highway and slammed into a Ford F-150, killing high school seniors Suzy Prime and Ava Grace Luplow, as well as recent grads Andrea Prime, Salomon Correa and Maggie Franco, according to the Pulaski County Special School District.
Suzy and Andrea Prime were sisters. All five were either presently or in the past connected to the Sylvan Hills High School, the district said.
The collision was so severe both trucks burst into flames, highway patrol said.
The ages of the victims ranged between 18 and 23, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
Some of the others involved in the series of crashes were injured, though state police did not detail how many in its press release.
The alleged wrong-way driver was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired. More charges could be leveled against the driver, who has not been identified, following further investigation.
The five young people were on their way home after spending a week in Wyoming where they visited Jackson Hole Bible College, according to the Faith Bible Fellowship Church, McClatchy Newspapers reported.
The victims were all remembered fondly by family and friends.
A pal of Suzy Prime, Vanessa Arias, recalled her “big, beautiful smile,” according to the Casper Star Tribune. The two played soccer together.
“I would always look for her, so I could get next to her and talk or just walk in silence with her,” she told the newspaper.
A bakery where Suzy Prime and Luplow worked said in a Facebook post the news of their deaths “has broken our hearts” as they tried to wrap their heads around “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 were trusting in HIM for their salvation,” the bakery stated. “They are now with HIM in glory and while we suffer their loss, our hearts are also filled with hope.”
The father of sisters Suzy, 18, and Andrea Prime, 23, told the Cowboy State Daily he won’t direct vengeance toward the driver accused of going the wrong-way.
“We could become angry and we could become bitter, but all those things destroy you,” Phil Prime told the news outlet. “Those feelings don’t help you.”
He reportedly said the five victims were devout Christians, “and they would want their death to be for the lord’s honor and glory, not some vehicle to … promote hate.”
Luplow’s mother, Sarah Wimberly, said in a Facebook post 18 years with her daughter “was just simply not 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’re lost without you Ava. I just lay in your bed and cry.
“I’m trying to get you back home where you belong but knowing I’ll never see your beautiful face again just really breaks me.”