‘It’s horrible’: Families of Utah Lake drowning victims mark 1 year anniversary of the tragedy

Local News

UTAH LAKE, Utah (ABC4) – Thursday marks one year from the day two teenage girls drowned in Utah Lake. As their families mark the somber anniversary, they’re working on a project to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

18-year-old Priscilla Bienkowski and 17-year-old Sophia Hernandez were on pool floats on the afternoon of May 6, 2020, when a sudden windstorm kicked up waves on the lake. Eight days later, search crews found their bodies miles from where they disappeared. 

Stephanie Cowles is Priscilla’s older sister.

“To be very honest, I know it’s been a year, and sometimes I still don’t like, believe it,” Cowles told ABC4 News Wednesday. “Like, I know that they’re gone, but it still doesn’t seem real.”

Despite a 13-year age difference, Cowles says she had a special bond with Priscilla.

“She was beautiful, stubborn, funny. She could sing. She loved singing as she loved haunted houses and Halloween,” Cowles said. “She had wild, big dreams that I know she would have accomplished if she had the chance to.”

Cowles knows she can’t go back and save Priscilla and Sophia that day, but she can possibly save others by installing life-jacket loaner stations at six popular entrance points around Utah Lake.

“If the girls were wearing life jackets, it could have definitely been a different outcome,” she said.
Now, Cowles is telling everyone, if you’re going to be on the water, a life jacket should be on you.
“Just wear it. Even if it covers your cute bathing suit, just wear it,” Cowles said. “Because I don’t want anyone to feel what our family and Sophia’s family has felt. It’s horrible.”

Stephanie says they’re still in the process of getting approvals and designs for those lifejacket stations.

As for Thursday, Stephanie and her family will be taking their boat out in honor of Priscilla.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Utah Coronavirus

More Coronavirus Updates


More In Focus

Justice Files

More Justice Files