POWELL, WY — Pastor Timothy Morrow said it was a packed service at New Life Church of Powell on Saturday as friends and family gathered to remember the lives of two teen siblings who died in a car crash earlier in the week.
“Let's not sugar coat it today. It’s a tragedy in our hearts and in our minds," Morrow said.
Ralston siblings Peiton Hackenberg, 17, and Phoenix Hackenberg, 15, died at the scene of the car crash that happened Wednesday morning on Highway 14, east of Powell. According to Wyoming Highway Patrol, the road was slick with snow when the Hackenbergs' vehicle lost control and entered the oncoming lane, colliding with another vehicle.
"I will miss their contagious laughs, incredible love and their constant positivity. I will be counting down the days until we meet again," said Maddi Hackenberg, older sister of the teens.
At the service, Maddi shared funny videos of her siblings archived over the years on social media. She showed a video where Peiton and Phoenix wanted to box each other, but only had one pair of gloves. So they put one glove on one hand each and had their match, laughing as every punch was thrown, Maddi said.
“It just makes me think of how they had smiles on their faces at all times and had unlimited forgiveness for anyone they came in contact with," Madison said.
The teen's older brother, Reese Hackenberg, spoke of the family's resilience through tragedy and how you never know when someone close may pass away.
“I know for a fact that my family, they went and they know that I love them unconditionally and I know that they love me even more," Reece said.
The siblings were both enrolled at Lovell High School: Peiton a junior and Phoenix a freshman. Their mother, Brenda, is a teacher at Lovell Middle School.
The Lovell Schools Superintendent Doug Hazen said it's tough to lose two students in the community that has less than 400 students in middle and high school.
"These two were friends with everyone. Really well-liked students, kids and friends. Just again, throughout any kind of relationship you can think of, they were just really well-liked and a big part of this school fabric and community. And the same with Mrs. Hackenberg as our teacher. I think a lot of our students had her as they came up through our system and respect and love her. Our heart breaks for the family in something like this," Hazen said.
Peiton served as captain of the Lovell High School Cheerleading team and was a member of the team for three years under coach Lauren Shumway.
"She had the beautiful way of making everyone feel like they were valued and loved and that you were somebody that was important. She just loved and smiled and laughed. That girl made us laugh and have fun," Shumway said of Peiton.
The loss of their captain is tough for the seven-member cheer squad made up of four juniors and three freshman. Shumway remembered how Peiton lead the young team to a fourth place finish at the Wyoming State Spirit Competition in January this year.
“Her smile was always there. She was always making us laugh. Always trying to find the positive in a situation and she had the ability to make each and every one of our girls, including myself, feel loved and appreciated. We all knew that she was there for us and she knew that we were there for her," Shumway said.
The family asked the team to attend the funeral service in uniform to remember their captain.
The crash that killed the two teens also sent two people from Lovell to Powell Valley Healthcare for injuries sustained in the crash: Brittney Baldridge, 31, and Elliot Wittick, 32, according to Wyoming Highway Patrol. They were in the second vehicle. The crash is still under investigation.
The funeral service was streamed live to New Life Church's YouTube channel. Click here to view it in its entirety.
Friends of the Hackenberg family have created a Facebook page to act as a landing spot for auction items, with proceeds going back to the family. For more details, visit the page by clicking here.