By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
Suzy was 18, loved pink, shopping, playing soccer and pizza with ketchup on it.
Her older sister Andrea was 23, had a stubborn streak, was a talented artist and could beat just about anybody in foosball.
Those are some of the things Phil Prime says he’ll remember about his daughters, who were two of five young people from Arkansas killed on a Wyoming highway Sunday evening returning from a weeklong visit to Jackson Hole Bible College.
“You’re talking about two girls who were just your normal-type girls, loving the lord,” Phil Prime told Cowboy State Daily. “They could sing, and they could sing very well. There will be a couple of voices missing now.”
Susana “Suzy” and Andrea Prime were in a Ford F-150 truck that was hit head-on by a semitrailer on Interstate 80 east of Rawlins, Wyoming, a little before 7 p.m. Sunday. The commercial truck had swerved from the opposite lane to avoid a chain-reaction crash caused by a Dodge Ram 3500 truck driving the wrong way on the interstate.
When the semitrailer hit the Ford, both burst into flames, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reports. And while the driver of the semi survived, all five friends in the Ford, ranging in age from 18-23, died.
Traveling with Suzy and Andrea Prime were Salomon Correa, Magdalene “Maggie” Franco and Ava Luplow.
An Excruciating Wait
While he didn’t know it at the time, Phil Prime may have been the first to know something had happened that night.
One of his daughters had activated a feature on her iPhone that sends out a message to a designated number in case of a suspected crash.
He got that message ¬– then nothing for hours.
That automatic iPhone alert “was all the information we had for about six hours or so,” he said. “That was it until we got confirmation from the police.”
Driver ‘Going To Have To Live With Himself’
While sad and grieving the loss of his children and the other three killed in the crash – he collectively calls them “our kids” – Phil Prime said his family’s deep faith has prepared them to respond with compassion and forgiveness, not a desire for vengeance.
“We could become angry and we could become bitter, but all those things destroy you,” he said from the family’s home in Sherwood, Arkansas. “Those feelings don’t help you.”
The driver of the Dodge that triggered the fatal crash, Arthur A. Nelson, 57, of Limestone, Tennessee, is suspected of driving while impaired and remains in the Carbon County jail awaiting other potential charges from the Carbon County Attorney’s office.
Some parents in Prime’s place would be consumed with a desire for vengeance, but he said his faith and belief in God is helping his family deal with the sudden loss.
He’s also content knowing that, should he be convicted, the driver will face severe consequences from the court system and God.
“The state government steps in and generally makes people accountable in that sense, so I don’t go out looking for revenge or justice,” Prime said. “He’s obviously going to pay time in prison, but I’m not the judge or jury on that – which for that I’m thankful.”
Possibly a more fitting consequence for the driver is that “he’s also going to have to live with himself,” he said.
“He did not ruin our lives,” Prime continued. “Yeah, our lives are changed permanently. We take it one day at a time.
“But all five of those young people in that vehicle were believers in Christ and were Christians, and they would want their death to be for the lord’s honor and glory, not some vehicle to … promote hate.”
Besides, Prime added, the driver is “going to be hated enough by everybody else.”
Suzy had just turned 18 a week earlier and was looking forward to graduating from high school, her father said.
The youngest of five children, “she was all girl,” he said, adding that, “she was a fun-loving young girl who loved the lord.”
Along with her siblings, Suzy grew up with her family in Mexico where Prime said he and his wife served as Christian missionaries for 20 years. And while her faith, church and family were very important to them, Suzy and Andrea weren’t pushy with others about it.
Suzy worked at a bakery, loved to play soccer, being with her friends and “she always had a hug for her dad,” Prime said.
Like many teens, she loved to listen to music, but sometimes that could become a little much for the rest of the family because Suzy would play Christmas music all year-round.
As the youngest, “she could have her mean streaks, but usually she was just pretty nice,” her father said. “A lot of people called her ‘Sweet Suzy,’ and she was definitely a sweetheart, really just a nice girl.”
Andrea Was ‘The Queen’ Of Foosball
The second youngest, Andrea was someone Prime said he admired, even if she could at times be “too much like her dad – a little opinionated at times.”
Along with Correa and Franco, Andrea had already attended Jackson Hole Bible College and was visiting with her sister and Luplow.
Andrea taught Sunday school, worked as a painter, was the more competitive of the sisters and very artistic, her father said.
“Andrea was just one of those people you like to hang around,” he said. “She had lots of suitors, but she turned them all down.
“She also was an artist and loved to do her artwork. She would draw portraits, and she could take a picture you gave her and draw it in charcoal or pencil.”
And when it comes to foosball, Andrea had the touch, Prime said.
“She was the queen of that, for sure,” he said. “Her and some of the girls in Jackson Hole, they’d beat all the boys and make them mad.”
In the end, Prime said his two youngest girls were just down-to-earth good people who were strong in their faith.
“You’re talking about two girls who were just your normal-type girls, loving the lord,” he said.
Prayers For Responders
While the Sherwood, Arkansas, community continues to grieve their loss, Prime said his heart and prayers go out to the first responders who had to process the scene and the crash victims.
He has special sympathy for those who had to deal with the most gruesome part of the scene ¬– the burned truck and the remains of the five.
“I can’t imagine going to a vehicle and finding dead young people,” Prime said. “I realize there was a fire, so that even makes it worse. I can’t even fathom that.”
He also said the community is praying for the driver of the commercial truck that hit the F-150. He holds no blame for her, as she was trying to avoid a tragic outcome and another potential grisly scene in the other lane of traffic.
“We’re praying for her,” Prime said. “We don’t know her name, but we’re praying for her.”
The family is finding strength in their faith and church community at Faith Bible Fellowship.
“If you’ve got the lord, you can do it,” he said of dealing with tragedy. “If you haven’t got the lord, I don’t know how you could, really.”
As the criminal justice system proceeds against the driver of the Dodge, Prime said he’s OK with letting that system work through itself.
“I could wish him the worst, but he’s already going to get that,” he said. “What can I say or do to that person that would actually help me or my family? Nothing. I’m not going to cry for 100 years in jail. That’s not going to do anything for my kids.”
Until then, the Prime family has holes left by two daughters and sisters suddenly stripped from their lives.
Phil Prime said he’ll miss those hugs Suzy always had for her dad and family singalongs will sound off without their voices. The house also seems much larger than before.
“There used to be two kids in each room, and now it’s only one in each room,” he said.
And like many other fathers would say in his place, Prime said he’d like just five minutes alone with the person who caused the crash that took five young lives.
“I would love to have five minutes with him,” he said, “to share the gospel, to tell him I forgive him.”