“On behalf of the sheriff’s office and all the volunteers who have helped do this, express our sincere condolences to the families of these girls,” Smith said. “This is difficult for everyone involved. I want to thank the family for their patience with us. It’s been stressful on our crew; it’s hard to find these young women and I want to thank you for their patience. … I can not imagine, and never want to imagine, what they experienced. “
Bienkowski, 18, and Hernandez, 17, both from Saratoga Springs, went to the Knolls area on the western side of Lake Utah on May 6, that afternoon, to go tubing.
A fisherman found the first corpse, found on the beach near the dock by the Lincoln Beach marina, at 1:30 pm, and the second corpse was found three hours later by a pilot with the sheriff’s office.
The second body was found about half a mile from where the second tube was found, 8.5 miles from where the teenager entered the water.
“Over the past eight days, there have been more than 1,000 hours of time spent on this search,” Smith said. “More than 10 ships, 12 wave runners, several helicopters and airplanes.”
Justin Gordon, a sergeant in the sheriff’s office and coordinator of search and rescue, said that the hardest part of the search was dealing with the weather.
Shortly after Bienkowski and Hernandez left for the lake, strong winds crossed Utah County. Winds take up to 20-25 mph and increase to around 50 mph overnight.
The water temperature on Lake Utah was 57 degrees on that day.
Gordon believes that the authorities have established a good search area, working south of where the teenagers went to the water and where they verified the couple was last seen – but they went 6 miles.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Gordon said. “I have to digest this and find out how I will handle future searches if things happen like this. But we are working on the right area for the place according to our experience, and here we end 6 miles east. “
Many agencies, including Utah State Parks, Wasatch County, Washington County and Utah Highway Patrol, assisted in the search. But even with all the help and resources, the weather is too bad on the lake to allow them to work to their best capacity.
“You even saw [13 mph] the wind we feel here, “Smith said.” You wouldn’t think so, but in Lake Utah, wind like this makes the lake dangerous. That, for the people on the lake, is a problem, and that is also a problem for us when we try to search. For most of our search time, Mother Nature did not work with us on this. “
State Boat and Safety Coordinator Ty Hunter said Lake Utah consists of very dynamic complications. In addition to weather conditions, it is a large body of water (96,000 hectares of surface) and has a lot of influence because of its size.
The lake can change from flat glass to extreme conditions in a few moments, Hunter said. The authorities are also struggling with water clarity, instead of relying on sonar-scan sonar and multibeam sonar technology.
“Remember that every time you go to the water, whether you come out on a boat or you will play on water … wear your life jacket,” Hunter said. “The life jacket is your insurance to go home at the end of the day. This is your seat belt when you are on water. This will keep you safe. “
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