FARR WEST, Utah – In the midst of their 14-year-old daughter’s tragic and untimely death, a Utah family is expressing their gratitude for the community that is helping them heal.
Driving into the neighborhood behind Wahlquist Junior High School in Farr West, you’ll see the color purple peppered across trees, poles and fences. One house, in particular, decorated in purple balloons with an elaborate sign in the yard reading "We love you Sparrows."
The small sentiments, lending the Sparrow family more hope and love than they could have ever imagined.
“How humbling it is to receive the kind of service and love and support that they’ve received throughout this very trying time in their life,” said Dan Walker, a family spokesperson and friend as he stood on the sidewalk outside of the school.
A few feet away Ayva’s mother, father, older brother and younger sister, stood in solidarity -- not yet ready to speak publicly about the incident, but hoping to let the world know Ayva the way they did and to see her smile.
“Ayva is a sweet girl, beautiful, easy to get along with,” Walker said as he rattled off some of his favorite things about the 14-year-old. “Just a really good, smart, caring kid.”
The Sparrows had taken a family vacation to Canada.
“[They] took a lot of trips and did a lot of fun things as a family,” Walker said.
With a lighthearted demeanor, Ayva’s little sister explained how her big sis had always wanted to travel the world, she was sure their trip to Canada had met that goal (considering it was her first time out of the country).
On their way back from Canada, the Sparrow’s drove through Glacier National Park in Montana. They were driving up “Going to the Sun Road” Monday night when the accident happened.
“Just rare, really rare, that something like this would happen and tragic to lose Ayva in such a manner,” Walker said.
The National Park Service said enough rocks to fill the bed of a pick-up truck fell onto their car, ranging from the size of a fist to 12 inches in diameter.
The rocks shattered the rear windshield, significantly injuring Ayva and causing her to lose consciousness.
The National Park Service said a medical helicopter responded to the scene, but the teen was not stable enough to be transported by air. Ayva died in the ambulance on their way to the hospital. Her parents sustained significant bruising; Ayva’s siblings had minor injuries.
“The amount of time they were able to get together, they were all together when this tragedy happened,” said Walker. “Even though it was tragic, it was a true blessing to be together right up till the end.”
Now, coming back to their neighborhood – the Sparrows find Ayva in every balloon, ribbon and note.
“It’s really helping to heal,” Walker said.
All of Ayva’s classmates at Wahlquist Junior High plan to wear purple, her favorite color, in her honor on the first day of class next Tuesday.
A fundraising page has been set up for the family to help cover funeral expenses here.