Two bodies found Thursday are believed to be those of teens who went missing while tubing on a Utah lake more than a week ago, officials said.
Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith said the remains are thought to be those of Priscilla Bienkowski, 18, and Sophia Hernandez, 17, who went out on Utah Lake on May 6 but did not return.
Smith expressed his “sincere condolences to the families of these two beautiful girls” at a news conference Thursday evening.
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Bienkowski, who is from Saratoga Springs, Utah, and Hernandez, of Eagle Mountain, went onto Utah Lake with what have been described as tube floats. A fisherman found the girls’ belongings on shore, including one of the girls’ ringing cellphones.
Sheriff Mike Smith, @UCSO, will give a briefing for media at Lincoln Beach Marina at 7:30 PM tonight. This is regarding the search for Priscilla Bienkowski and Sophia Hernandez who went missing on @UtahLake near The Knolls on 5/6/2020. pic.twitter.com/Uu3YzhgqNB
— Spencer Cannon (@SGTCannonPIO) May 14, 2020
The teens were thought to have been caught in bad weather on the lake. Smith said that even a modest wind on shore can create treacherous conditions on the large body of water south of Salt Lake City.
One of the bodies was found by a fisherman by a jetty around 1:40 p.m., Thursday, and the second was spotted by a pilot from the sheriff’s office around three hours later, Smith said.
Utah Lake is south of Salt Lake City.
Smith said that the search included more than 1,000 hours, more than 10 boats and wave runners as well as several aircraft. Many agencies assisted in the effort, including from the state and neighboring counties.
The large lake covers 96,000 surface acres and “can turn from just flat glass to just extreme conditions … in just a moment’s notice,” Utah State Parks Boating Coordinator Ty Hunter said.
The water clarity of the lake also makes cameras used underwater useless, and searchers had to rely on sonar.