Utah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue recovered the bodies of two teenage girls Thursday afternoon, who had vanished after swimming at Utah Lake on May 6.
According to multiple sources, the bodies of 18-year-old Priscilla Bienkowski and 17-year-old Sophia Hernandez were discovered by search and rescue crews early Thursday afternoon.
Bienkowski and Hernandez were initially reported missing the afternoon of May 6, after a fisherman answered one of the girl’s phones. The mother of one of the girls was calling her daughter after not hearing from her for some time.
When Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived that day, they discovered the girls’ personal belongings and one of the girl’s abandoned vehicle, Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.
The girls were suspected to have gotten into the water near the Knolls before 3 p.m. on May 6.
During the initial search, deputies discovered two pool tubes the girls were suspected to have been using 3.3 miles from each other in the reeds that line the shore of Utah Lake. The two tubes were found 5.2 and 8.5 miles south of where the girls were suspected to have been found.
After the girls’ disappearance, a heavy windstorm hit the area, creating large waves that trapped kayakers on the lake, he said. That night, wind speeds reached upward of 40 mph from north to south.
When authorities continued the search the next morning, water temperatures had reached 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water remained choppy.
Since their disappearance, around 60 individuals from several law enforcement agencies have worked 60-80 hours each to locate the missing teens, including search and rescue volunteers, Utah County deputies, Department of Public Safety staff, Utah State Parks staff, and deputies from Wasatch, Weber and Sanpete counties.
Four helicopters and two airplanes have been used to search the area from the air, while authorities have also used 10 boats, side-scan sonar, and 12 wave runners to search from the water, Cannon said.
Authorities reduced their search efforts on Utah Lake on Sunday to pursue other avenues.
“If the girls are in the water, this is a recovery operation, not a rescue operation,” Cannon said in a previous interview. “If they’re in water, there is no chance that they’re alive.”
During their investigation, officials were able to obtain surveillance footage of Hernandez purchasing items from a Saratoga Springs Walmart before 3 p.m. the day she disappeared. Additionally, deputies had video of Hernandez parking her car to get into Bienkowski’s vehicle.
The girls had also been traveling to the Knolls at Utah Lake for several days before their disappearance, according to social media posts, Cannon said.
Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith will be holding a press conference at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening at Lincoln Beach Marine to discuss further details about the case. This is a developing story, and it will be updated when more information becomes available.