A Payson High School junior died and another teen was injured while riding on an ATV east of Beaver Valley on Monday night, authorities said.
Julia Wright, 17, and two friends were riding on a single quad in a bumpy meadow near Old Love Lady Ranch when the driver, speeding over bumps, lost control and slammed into a juniper tree. Wright died on scene before sheriff’s deputies arrived.
Family members and friends gathered at Wright’s home Wednesday to remember the teen. Wright’s mother, Rachel Bryant, described her as a “very happy girl who lived life to the fullest.”
She said Wright was out riding quads with a group of friends and none of the teens were wearing helmets.
“Everyone should have been wearing helmets and there should never be (too many) people on one quad,” Bryant said. “A lot of teenagers don’t think about the consequences of their actions.”
Bryant said she hopes after her daughter’s death, more people will wear helmets.
A press release from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office gave the following account of the incident:
Wright and five friends were riding quads along a dirt road with many hills and bumps around 4 p.m. A 13-year-old girl was driving the quad with Wright seated in the middle and a 14-year-old on the back. The driver lost control of the quad and jumped off before striking a tree. Wright struck the tree and died on scene. The third girl suffered minor injuries and refused medical treatment.
The sheriff’s office did not release the names of the other teens.
Shortly after the collision, a man and woman called the Payson Police Department to report the accident. The callers said a 17-year-old was bleeding from the nose and mouth and had no pulse.
“The cell phone service was weak and kept fading out. A subsequent call was received advising there was another girl hurt with back, neck and rib injuries,” a press release states.
Not knowing the teens’ exact location, the Beaver Valley Fire Department and Gila County Sheriff’s deputies searched the Beaver Valley area until they found the girls on the Old Love Lady Ranch. A DPS helicopter flew the driver to Flagstaff Medical Center. According to Det. George Ratliff, the driver was listed in critical condition Tuesday morning. No other updates were available.
Bryant said she did not learn of her daughter’s death until 8 p.m., several hours after she had died. She said she learned of her death from Wright’s friends, who text messaged each other with the news she was involved in a collision.
Wright was a junior at Payson High School. During the last year, she had joined the wrestlerettes and was described by one teacher as a cheerleader to everyone.
Payson High School officials had three school councilors available Tuesday in the gym for grieving students.
“She was always like a big sister to everyone,” said Wright’s math teacher, Peggy Owens. “She always left you feeling better.”
Owens said Wright was a kind and talented young woman with a lovely smile.
“When she walked into a room, you knew it. She just had a charismatic smile,” Owens said. “She could never stay upset for long, and she was always quick and eager to help her friends.”
Bryant said her daughter’s main goal was to finish high school.
“She was having a great year,” Owens said.
When she wasn’t at school, you could always find her listening to her iPod.
To remember Wright, friends have created a cross and signed it. The family plans to put it at the site of the accident.
A service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 24 at Mountain Bible Church, 302 E. Rancho Road. The family asks that people wear something pink, which was Wright’s favorite color.