While driving to a Young Women camp on Tuesday, June 12, one Young Women leader was killed and three were injured in a rollover crash near Vero Beach, Florida.
Leader Silvana Lopez Ponce was ejected from the car during the crash and passed away by the time Indian River County Fire Rescue arrived, according to tcpalm.com. The three other leaders traveling with Ponce were taken to the hospital, two with serious injuries and another with minor injuries. Ponce was a new convert to the LDS Church who recently went through the temple with her husband and 12-year-old son.
When Camp Director Shauna Hostetler heard about the accident, she shared the devastating news with the 85 girls and 20 leaders attending camp: "As horrible and horrific as it was, the Lord gave me words, and you could almost reach out and feel the comfort in that room and the girls comforting each other," Hostetler says.
Hostetler shared that the youth camp leaders (YCLs) and young women closest to Ponce felt she would have wanted them to stay together, embrace each other, and learn of Christ. "The Young Women adored her, and she adored them. But they also know they will see her again," Hostetler says. "The theme for the camp was 'Anchored in Christ: Peace Be Still' and we sure went through some rough waters together, put our anchors out, but the YCLs were very prepared spiritually for this camp." That preparation Hostetler sees as a blessing as the Young Women have buoyed each other up, shared their testimonies, lit candles, and sang songs together. "Every hour since then has proved that this was the correct decision. The girls and adults have pulled together to love and support each other, understanding at a deeper level, their responsibility to 'mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort,'" Hostetler wrote on Facebook.
Another tender mercy came before the accident occurred when Hostetler and the YCLs arrived at their planned camp location on Monday to discover there was no electricity and no water, and the problem would take days if not weeks to fix. With no place to stay, the camp leaders scrambled to find a solution. Within hours, a priesthood leader said his boss would allow the girls to stay at his vacation resort, a place that could house all 100 of the young women and leaders.
"I really feel like the Lord has put us in this beautiful setting so that when we had the hardest of the hard hit us, we were comfortable and could put our arms around each other. And that's what is happening," Hostetler says. "The Spirit is beautiful here."
Hostetler shared that on-site grief counseling has been provided by Church leaders, and she has seen an "outpouring of love and support from community, friends, and family is buoying us up and sincerely appreciated." While the Young Women are praying for Silvana Ponce's family and other leaders involved, we add our prayers to theirs and encourage others to also keep the families involved in this tragedy in their thoughts and prayers during the coming days.