Search and rescue crews continue search for two missing teens at Utah Lake

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UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – UPDATE: The bodies of Priscilla Bienkowski and Sophia Hernandez were found Thursday, May 14.


It’s a race against the clock for Utah County Sheriff’s Office’s Search and Rescue team to find two teenagers who went missing at Utah Lake Wednesday night.

According to Sgt. Spencer Cannon, family members called Saratoga Springs Police around 8 p.m. when 17-year-old Sophia Hernandez and 18-year-old Priscilla Bienkowski didn’t return home.

They said the teens were tubing near the Knoll’s area of Utah Lake along SR-68 near mile marker 20. One of the parents told investigators a nearby fisherman picked up their phone that was left behind when they called.

RELATED: Kite surfer on Utah Lake at same time as missing teens says ‘swells were at least three to six feet high’

“There is grave concern because Utah Lake is unique in the sense that when you get wind, anyone in the water is going to get bad waves,” said Sgt. Cannon. “Here, you can have six or eight foot waves, but because it’s so shallow, those waves are close together and it makes it nearly impossible to navigate when you’re on a tube or a kayak.”

Crews located the teenagers’ car keys, cell phone, and personal belongings on shore and eventually, their tubes in the water. They suspended their search around 3 a.m. because of the conditions.
“The state park’s boat here that has the ability to use the side-scan sonar is nearly impossible to use when the conditions are like this,” said Sgt. Cannon.

He said the tubes that Sophia and Priscilla bought may have been from Walmart, which are not designed to be life preservers but more like “pool toys.” He emphasized that the wind conditions they endured during the night were treacherous. At this time, investigators don’t have information that indicates the girls wore life jackets.

“The water temperature is about 57 degrees. With that kind of water temperature, it would be really, really difficult to maintain lucidity for very long. Human body loses temperature 24 times faster in water than you do in air,” said Sgt. Cannon.

Search efforts resumed around 7:30 a.m. with boats in the water, helicopters in the sky, and UCSO’s Mounted Posse on the shore. Crews know time is of the essence and hope Sophia and Priscilla are still alive somewhere, waiting for help to come.

“Maybe these gals are holding up somewhere, got injured, and freezing their buns off,” said Sgt. Cannon.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office said the two girls went on the lake to go tubing Wednesday when the weather went bad. The girl’s car, keys, clothes and cell phones were found near the Knolls area of the lake and their tubes were found in the water.

DPS helicopter and boats recovered two float tubes on Wednesday. Shortly after rescue efforts started, crews say the strong wind gusts created 10 foot swells and 50 mile per hour winds so they had to suspend the search overnight.

Crews returned at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday to continue their search.

As of right now this is still a rescue mission, but that could transition to a recovery the longer they go without hearing from the girls.

Related update: Despite high winds, crews continue search for missing teens at Utah Lake

This is a developing story and details will be updated when more information is available.

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