Search for two Lake Powell crash victims extends into third day
Lake Powell • Search for two missing women extends into third day after boat crash.
Published: June 24, 2013 07:55AM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:34PM
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Courtesy photo Jessica Jackman

Jessica Jackman’s walker is the first thing her family sees as they open their front door.

Jackman, 22, and her brother’s girlfriend, Valerie Bradshaw, 29, are presumed dead and have been missing since a motorboat crash on Thursday at Lake Powell, a crash that also claimed Jackman’s mother, Marilyn. Saturday marked the third day that divers searched for Jackman and Bradshaw with sonar technology.

Despite living with Stickler syndrome, a group of genetic disorders characterized by physical abnormality, hearing loss, and eye and joint problems, Jessica Jackman graduated this year from Westminster College with a social work degree. Marilyn Jackman raised her daughter to believe she could do anything, said longtime neighbor Kari Wahlquist.

She remembers watching Jessica Jackman as a girl, doing her hair and nails and asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Bright-eyed, she said she wanted to be a mother and Miss America.

Wahlquist recalled how during a St. Patrick’s Day project in elementary school, the students were supposed to write down what they wanted on a shamrock. Most of the children wished for fame or fortune, but Jessica Jackman wrote down that she wanted to skip.

When the surviving members of the Jackman family returned to their South Jordan home Friday night, it was hard on them to go in, see Jessica’s walker and be reminded of her death, Walhquist said.

“Now without all of those physical limitations, [Jessica] will be able to run and skip and dance and twirl and hold her mom,” Wahlquist said.

The lake had been a favorite place for Marilyn Jackman. She loved water skiing and being on the water with her family, and “call it irony or a gift, but to be able to have the heavens open and take her at her favorite place, it’s an amazing thing,” as well as the hardest thing, Wahlquist said.

Bradshaw loved the lake, too, and had been looking forward to the trip for a long time.

When Jack McDonald, the bishop of Bradshaw’s Mormon ward, first met the newcomer, he asked Bradshaw what type of calling she would enjoy. “She said. ‘Well, I love to serve people,’ ” McDonald recalled.

Before long, she was keeping an eye out for other newcomers who were sitting alone. She would sit next to them, introduce herself and make them feel welcome.

“She was always looking out for other people,” McDonald said. “You hear that about lots [of people], but [it was] personified in Valerie.”

He and Bradshaw talked often of Milan, Italy, where his daughter and Bradshaw served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There was a sweet naïvety that was so charming, as well [about her],” McDonald said. “She just made simple things fun, and tedious things endurable.”

News of the accident shocked McDonald when he got word from her roommates Friday evening.

According to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, Jessica Jackman’s father may have been distracted by children onboard the motorboat he was driving as it approached a houseboat near the Dangling Rope Marina on Thursday morning. Adrian Jackman veered at the last minute but still struck the front corner of the houseboat, which overturned the motorboat and sent 13 people into the water.

No one is blaming anyone, McDonald said. It was an accident, and accidents happen, he added.

The National Park Service, Utah State Parks and Kane County Sheriff’s Office were working to find the missing victims and to investigate the accident. The water is about 400 feet deep at the crash site, Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Alan Alldredge said in a press release.

A National Park Service dive team on Friday used a submersible robot with a camera to search the area, but malfunctions to the sonar after 2 p.m. cut the effort off for the day. Utah Department of Public Safety divers have taken over the search. They left the dock at Wahweep Marina at 9 a.m. Saturday to begin searching the accident scene with their own sonar technology.

The purpose of the dive team is to locate potential targets, which could be the women’s bodies, and mark the locations with GPS coordinates. The National Park Service then would use its robot to investigate the spot and potentially retrieve a body.

The National Park Service is waiting on parts or a loaner robot, which should arrive Monday, while the broken robot is being repaired.

Utah State Parks officials will be handling the crash investigation during the first part of the week.

Friends of the families have set up a joint account at Zions Bank, called The Jackman/Bradshaw Family Donations, McDonald said. People can donate at any branch location.

A funeral service for Bradshaw is tentatively scheduled for Saturday at her parents’ ward. The Jackmans have not yet made funeral arrangements.

“[Bradshaw’s] smile, it would lighten up a room whenever she would walk in ... I can still see that smile and I always will,” McDonald said.

Like Bradshaw, Marilyn and Jessica Jackman are remembered for their service, Wahlquist said. Adrian Jackman, the father, is the local LDS bishop, and the family was always helping others.

“Even last night when Adrian got home ... he was loving people and trying to comfort the rest of us as we were there offering help to them, with all of his broken ribs and bandages, comforting us,” Wahlquist said. “That’s the kind of home [Jessica] grew up in.”

Wahlquist urged people to pray that the divers find the women soon and give the Jackmans and Bradshaws much needed closure. She plans to hold a fast for the families on Sunday.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda