Friends, Family Remember Two High School Graduates Who Died In Fiery Crash
WASATCH COUNTY, Utah — Heartbroken friends remembered the lives of two recent high school graduates who were among the three people killed in a fiery car crash in Wasatch County.
They also gathered with family for an emotional tribute Monday night in Heber.
Friends said Payton Caldwell and Emma Call, both 18, were happy and full of life when they hit the road Monday, with so much already accomplished through their high school years and so much more ahead of them.
“They were just so happy,” said Tiffany Hall, who was friends with both girls and grew up with Payton. “Everyone knew Emma and Payton, the whole school. They’re the kind of people you just love them no matter what.”
The two recent graduates were driving south on U.S. 189 when authorities said a pick-up driver, heading in the opposite direction, rear-ended a Jeep. The Jeep caught fire and went into oncoming traffic, clipping one car and then hitting the Chevrolet Trailblazer that the two girls were in. Their car also caught fire and the driver of the Jeep, Payton and Emma were all killed.
“I just felt like, this is just a complete nightmare. I’m just going to wake up tomorrow and it’s going to be over, but I just collapsed,” said Hall.
Hall called another friend, Naleea Anderson, to tell her the tragic news.
“[She] said, ‘Payton’s gone,’ and I just started crying and I asked, ‘Why did they have to take her so soon? Both of them?’ They were such good people,” Anderson said.
Friends said Payton was on the track team, played basketball and volleyball and excelled in academics at Wasatch High School. She had received a scholarship to attend Southern Utah University.
“She walks into the room and she smiles and she’s just contagious. She’s just the kind of girl that you want to be friends with, but she’s just so humble,” Hall said.
Another friend, Madelyn Farrell, is good friends with Payton’s younger twin sisters and looked up to Payton like an older sister. She also got to know Emma, who also ran track at Wasatch High.
Farrell said she doesn’t ever remember Emma being sad.
“She was just the sweetest person. She was just like full of energy and excitement,” she said.
Emma and Payton graduated from high school in May, with no way of knowing they would soon graduate from this life, leaving treasured memories for heartbroken families and countless friends.
“I know they’re in a better place. It’s hard for me right now to understand that concept,” Hall said. “I know she’s happy.”
The Wasatch County School District posted a statement on Facebook Tuesday saying counseling services would be available to students at Timpanogos Middle School and Wasatch High School.
Payton’s family also released a statement, saying in part, “her accomplishments were many, but most of all, her smile lit up the lives of everyone around her. Payton is dearly loved and will be missed by so many.”
The statement read in full:
“Payton always set her goals high! Since she was young, she would have a white board with a list of goals written on it, both long term and short term. They would range from sports to academics. Somehow even after all the challenges COVID brought she graduated with a 3.97 GPA! She was a volleyball 2-year letterman, track 3-year letterman (COVID prevented the 4th year), got her CNA and medical assisting licenses, completed both CTE pathways was named all-region volleyball and track. She was also team captain for track this year. She got her Seal of Biliteracy, her photography state certification, child development state certification, and some of the computer state certifications. She graduated from Wasatch High School with 27 college credit hours. She also graduated from seminary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She did this while working 2 jobs most of this past year. She was a tumbling state champion and took place at region. She was recognized at Deer Valley this year for working the past 5 years. All while doing 2-3 sports at once. She was in the HOSA, Interact, and Honor Society clubs. She won 2 of the last 3 year’s winter games in skeleton for the high school club age. She received multiple scholarship offers and was looking forward to being a student at Snow College in the fall. Her accomplishments were many, but most of all, her smile lit up the lives of everyone around her. Payton is dearly loved and will be missed by so many.”
Farrell’s family has started a fundraiser page to help support the families of Emma and Payton during this difficult time.
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