Bus crash in Utah and snowstorm in Idaho lead to local wards coming to the rescue

Two scary situations this week became a little easier to bear when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rushed to help out. 

In Utah, a Greyhound bus crashed on a remote stretch of Interstate 70 in Emery County, miles away from any accommodations. And in Idaho, travelers on U.S. Highway 26 were stranded during a snowstorm that closed the road near Swan Valley.

In each area, the local ward opened the church building for the people in need, and the ward members came forward with food, supplies and comfort.

Bus crash in Emery County, Utah

Just before midnight on Dec. 27, a Greyhound bus left the roadway and rolled upside down into a ditch at milepost 112 on I-70. Multiple people were injured. The area is 71 miles from the nearest hospital, and it was a frigid night.

As ambulances and first responders rushed to the scene from several surrounding counties, another phone call was made to the bishop of the Emery Ward in the Ferron Utah Stake.

Bishop Kris Payne opened the church building in Emery, which became a temporary shelter location for the passengers not initially transported by ambulance. Church members brought in cots, blankets and bedding.

The cultural hall was set up for a second evaluation of the passengers and several were then transported by ambulance to hospitals. In all, 32 people were transported by 12 ambulances to three hospitals that night. 

“At least ten residents of Emery were at the church cooking for and serving the stranded passengers. I am very grateful for the way they responded to show kindness to the stranded passengers,” Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk posted on Facebook.

Bishop Payne told the Church News, “With the help of our generous members we were able to have pancakes, eggs and bacon ready for them when they reached the church.” 

President Randy O’Neil, the stake president of the Ferron Utah Stake, said: “The Emery Ward did just what they always do to lend a hand. They are an exceptional ward with true Christ-like love.”

“Members of the Church and especially ones in these rural areas are always willing to help a neighbor or a stranger in need,” Bishop Payne said. But he stressed how much credit belonged to all the medical personnel, law enforcement, search and rescue, firefighters and other first responders who worked hard all night.

The Utah Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.

The lights of the emergency vehicles shine on the scene where a Greyhound bus overturned off I-70 in Emery County, Utah on Dec. 27, 2021.
The lights of the emergency vehicles shine on the scene where a Greyhound bus overturned off I-70 in Emery County, Utah on Dec. 27, 2021. Credit: Courtesy Emery County Sheriff's Office Facebook

Snowstorm strands travelers in Swan Valley, Idaho

On Dec. 26, a large snowstorm hit southeastern Idaho. It shut down U.S. Highway 26 near the small community of Swan Valley for most of the day. People trying to get home after Christmas were stuck with whatever they had in their cars.

“A huge thank you to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for opening their doors to dozens of stranded people,” explained Swan Valley Fire District spokeswoman Kat Brainard in a Facebook post. “Within about 30 minutes, we had the building unlocked, tables set up, the sidewalk and walk-up freshly reshoveled, and several families enjoying stretching their legs after being stuck in their vehicles for hours.”

About 60 people ended up going to the meetinghouse. Not only did the travelers have a warm place to wait out the storm with bathrooms and a kitchen, they had entertainment and companionship as well. Ward members played the piano, a mom brought formula for a baby who had run out, and someone else brought a big bag of stuffed animals so every stranded child could pick one. 

“One girl was having some serious anxiety, and her new friend really helped her out,” the Facebook post said.

Ward members and their neighbors in the community of Swan Valley, Idaho responded with food, blankets and more to the church building when a snowstorm stranded travelers from out of town on Dec. 26, 2021.
Ward members and their neighbors in the community of Swan Valley, Idaho responded with food, blankets and more to the church building when a snowstorm stranded travelers from out of town on Dec. 26, 2021. Credit: Kat Brainard, Swan Valley Fire District

Teton County Emergency Management brought cots, blankets and hygiene kits to the church. Different members of the community provided dinner and dessert, and even breakfast the next morning for those who had to shelter overnight. 

“Others offered food that we had to turn down because we already had plenty for everyone,” wrote Brainard. “We are so glad we have a safe and warm place for them to stay and food for them to eat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. … Our little Swan Valley community is amazing!”

Brainard confirmed to the Church News that this is the same ward that saw their meetinghouse burn down in December 2016. They rebuilt it and opened the new building about a year and a half later.