PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Hundreds of Pleasant Grove High School students are paying tribute to their former classmate, River Ackley, after the 16 year-old died in a terrible car crash, Friday night.
Dozens of brightly colored sticky notes displaying messages of love now light up the somber halls of the Pleasant Grove High School LDS Seminary building. It is students’ way of expressing themselves during a this difficult time.
“It’s been very emotional for tons of people,” said Brian Payne, a senior who became friends with River during Seminary this year.
Some heard news of the crash right after it happened near the northbound I-15 on-ramp off Center Street in Provo. Another car ran a red light and struck the GMC Yukon River and four others were riding in.
“I didn’t believe it at first, it took awhile. But as soon as I came here this morning and saw everything — all the yellow ribbons — I was like, ‘Oh, wow. This is actually for real. This really happened,'” Payne said.
Payne became friends with River after moving from out-of-state last year.
“It was a big change, of course, but… she was really nice, made everybody smile,” he recalled, adding that River made his big move to Utah easier. “She’s really fun, likes to make people laugh, she’s smiling pretty much all the time, pretty talkative,” Payne described.
River’s bright, friendly personality seems to be how others remember her as well.
“She was just a wonderful girl,” said Kiersten Swanson, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School.
“She was always happy. She was always dancing around to the music… and we’re going to miss her,” said Amanda Budgen,” one of River’s former fellow choir members.
Monday, some students showed up in dress clothes to honor River. Others helped tie yellow ribbons around the school. The common theme seemed to be gratitude for a girl so many called their friend.
“Thank you for being there and for being such a great person and making so many people smile. I know we’ll still be smiling thinking of you,” Payne said.
The other four students who were in the SUV with River are expected to make full recoveries.
River’s funeral is scheduled for this Friday, you can read her obituary here.