A teen that friends say always had a smile on her face was honored Monday night for her life and her final actions that likely saved others.
Besides avoiding traffic as her vehicle careened out of control when her accelerator stuck Friday, several of the teen’s organs were donated after her death Saturday afternoon.
Saige Bloom had just purchased a used white Ford Escape in the Valley and was driving home to Payson when the SUV’s accelerator reportedly stuck, according to authorities.
Police say Bloom’s driving saved the lives of others on the Beeline Highway Friday.
At the Walmart intersection, Bloom swerved to miss a vehicle holding a large family. Her SUV clipped the family’s vehicle, flipping her vehicle several times, but leaving the family uninjured.
On Monday night, hundreds of people gathered at the hillside near the intersection where the wreck occurred, paying homage to a teen most said was an amazing friend.
While some lit candles, others let blue balloons — her favorite color — float into the sky and others signed sentiments on poster board.
Bloom’s death shocked students and staff at Payson High School where she was a junior.
Ashley Ralston, a student at PHS who had played basketball with Bloom, helped organize Monday’s vigil.
Ralston said she wanted a way to honor a teen always willingly to help others.
Now in her family’s time of need, this was a way for the community to reach out to them, she said.
“Saige Bloom has many friends at PHS who are saddened by the tragedy and loss,” said Kathe Ketchem, PHS principal.
“Her friends describe her as a caring young lady who was very supportive and intuitive about their needs.”
On Facebook, an outpouring of condolences was posted for the Bloom family.
Julie Ashby, the Bloom’s neighbor, said all of messages were positive, each painting Bloom as a sweet, smiling teen.
“I have met a lot of girls in my life and, I don’t know how to explain it, but she was just so kind,” Ashby said of Bloom.
Chris Higgins, owner of Scoops Ice Cream, where Bloom worked part-time, said Bloom was “a great young girl that was always in a good mood and always smiling.”
Donovan Christian, a pastor at Expedition Church, said Bloom “was always friendly, happy and cheerful — a really sweet girl.”
Just before 1 p.m. Friday, as Bloom approached Payson traveling north on Highway 87, she phoned her mother Jaime Bloom, who was driving behind her, to let her know something was wrong with the vehicle.
“The mom calls dispatch and says her daughter is having a mechanical problem with her vehicle and could not get it stopped and that the vehicle was accelerating,” said Police Chief Don Engler.
Officers raced to clear intersections as the 17-year-old entered town, leading some motorists to believe officers were involved in a chase.
Officers said the teen’s vehicle was going 55-60 mph, Engler said.
Several motorists reported that they were nearly struck by Bloom’s SUV as it sped down the Beeline.
Joanna Carroll was sitting in the center lane of the highway, waiting to pull into Wendy’s, when Bloom’s vehicle came toward her head-on.
“There was nowhere for the car to go, and she should have hit me head-on,” Carroll wrote on Facebook. “Yet, through the grace of God, the young driver managed to maneuver her out-of-control car through numerous cars without causing injury, or illness. There was nowhere for her to go, yet she seemed to find a way.”
As Bloom neared the crowded Beeline and Malibu Drive intersection, one officer radioed that it appeared Bloom was going to crash.
Somehow, Bloom managed to maneuver the 2002 Escape between two vehicles waiting at the light, only clipping one of the vehicle’s lights and the other’s mirror, Engler said.
As Bloom entered the intersection, a passenger vehicle turned onto northbound 87 from Walmart. Bloom swerved, but the Escape clipped the right rear fender, causing the SUV to roll several times. Bloom, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the SUV.
It is unclear if Bloom tried to turn off the vehicle or put it into neutral, Engler said.
Paramedics airlifted Bloom to Phoenix in critical condition.
On Saturday afternoon, doctors took her off life support.
No one else was injured, Engler said.
“She really needs to be credited,” he said. “I am sure it was on her mind to protect others.”
Police believe a mechanical issue caused the accelerator to stick. The PPD is holding the SUV in evidence until a mechanical expert can examine it and make a final ruling.
Bloom had worked at Scoops for nearly a year and was active at the high school. She was an honor student, member of Renaissance, an academic achievement group, and was a member of the Lady Longhorn basketball and track teams, competing in sprint and relay events.
Devon Wells, culinary arts teacher, said Bloom was a great student to have in class. “She had a beautiful smile,” she said. “And she was always easy to get along with.”
Bloom had reportedly saved up wages from Scoops to help purchase the SUV.
“Her goal was always to get a vehicle,” Higgins said. “She was saving her money towards that.”
She was well liked by everyone, said Ashby and Higgins.
“She was just a very good-natured young girl,” Higgins said.
“If you look at every picture of her, there is not a picture where she does not have a smile on her face,” Ashby said.
This infectious smile had an effect on customers and friends.
“She had a very strong faith and was very positive and encouraging to other teenagers,” Higgins said.
Although she never met Bloom, Carroll said she is forever grateful for her quick actions.
“Though her life ended tragically, her legacy will be those who she fought to protect,” Carroll wrote. “The gift the young girl gave to me and my family will always be treated with great care and admiration — her life forever defined by heroic actions.”
The high school offered grief counseling for students Monday. Student government members are organizing meals for the family and are considering a scholarship in her name, Ketchem said.
Students and staff are wearing blue in honor of her.