Payton always excelled in everything she did! She was a CNA working on her medical assistance license, named regional academic all-state and loved sports, including tumbling, track and field and volleyball. She made her high school volleyball team as a freshman, played all four years, was a two-year varsity letterman and a three-year letterman in discus. She even decided to try the skeleton, which terrified her mother, and placed first twice in the winter games for her age group.
I remember watching Payton at her graduation. She was sitting next to her good friend, Emma Call. I was amazed and proud of all that she had accomplished over the years. After graduation, the Calls and our family went to the Olive Garden in Provo to celebrate. Everything was so perfect in the world. Payton was so excited for the summer and her plans to go to SUU where she received a four-year Fellow’s Scholarship.
Then June 7, 2021, happened and everything went from perfect to tragic. I was at work and Payton had called me while shopping for college with her future roommate. She was indecisive and wanted help picking out a golf skirt color. I laughed and told her to pick whatever she wanted. That was the last time I would ever talk to her.
Payton had plans to go to the lake with some other
friends that evening. Luckily most of the friends canceled. As I was leaving work, I was notified of a bad wreck not far from our house near Deer Creek. I called all my kids to make sure they were ok. They all answered, except for Payton. As the hours went on, I learned there were three fatalities and I started to panic even more. Someone had posted a photo of the crash and two cars were on fire. I didn’t realize at the time that it was our car and my daughter and Emma were still in it. The trailblazer they were driving was unrecognizable.
I called Emma’s mom and learned that the girls were together. We started searching immediately for them at the lake and around town. Payton’s sister called me crying saying, “I looked through binoculars. It looks like a trailblazer.” Around the same time, my husband forced himself through the police barricade and told officers that he thought it was our car. The police said that they didn’t know the make and model of the car because it was so destroyed. A few minutes later they were able to identify the vehicle by its VIN. The Calls were still at our home when my husband arrived accompanied by three police cars and confirmed that Payton and Emma were two of the three fatalities.
From what we can gather through the detectives and witnesses, Payton and Emma did nothing wrong. Payton was driving the speed limit in the outside lane. A truck coming the opposite direction rear-ended a jeep, propelling it into oncoming traffic — right in front of Payton and Emma. The vehicles erupted into flames and no one, despite their best efforts, could save them.
We miss Payton so much. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about her. She was very close to her siblings, including one older brother and twin sisters who were only a couple of years younger. On June 7, 2022, we gathered once again around a table with the Calls at the Olive Garden. This time it was much different. Instead of excitement and talking about college, it was somber and we were just trying to get through the day. Instead of helping our girls decorate their dorm rooms, Emma’s mom and I decorated their graves. Instead of all our girls standing by our side for family photos at their brothers’ weddings, we had to photoshop Payton in or hold a framed photo of her. Instead of just being happy at momentous events, we are always also sad.
A few months before Payton’s car crash, her twin sisters were taking driver education and they would tell me about horrible car crashes that had killed teenagers in Utah from the Teen Memoriam book. I was so sad for all the families and what they had been through. It had made a big impact on my soon-to-be teenage drivers. I never thought I would be writing a story about my child for that book! If everyone paid attention while driving and would just drive safely, then there would be no need for another book.