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ALPINE — A Utah County community has been mourning the death of a well-known and a well-liked teenager.
Cole Merrill, age 16, died while bridge-jumping over the weekend with friends in Lehi.
Police said despite the “No Trespassing” signs, the Old Iron Bridge near 3150 West and 1500 North has been a popular summer gathering spot for teens. They said officers are constantly asking kids to stay off the bridge.
Merrill, an Alpine native, did a backflip off the bridge into the Jordan River late Saturday night.
After jumping 8 to 10 feet into the water, he came up to the surface on his back, flipped onto his stomach, and went underwater, Lehi Police Sgt. Thayne Call said Saturday. He didn’t come back up.
A search and rescue team was called to the scene to look for him. Officials with the Lehi Police Department said although the river looks calm at the surface, there was an undercurrent because water is pumped north into Salt Lake County.
After searching for several hours, Cole’s body was found at the bottom of the river, about 20 feet from where he was last seen.
Friends and other loved ones were reeling over the loss of the Lone Peak High School student. They said he was a stellar athlete and overall person.
“You couldn’t hate him. He was like the kid you wanted to be around,” said Christian Paskett.
Paskett was one of the many soon-to-be Lone Peak juniors KSL spoke to who said Cole was somebody everybody wanted to be around.
“He made everybody feel like he was their best friend,” said Justin Ostler.
It was just hours before his death that Cole and some of his friends hiked Mount Timpanogos together.
“He was just helping us the whole way. He’s so athletic,” said Monet Winger.
They said Cole’s death was impacting countless others who said they were lucky to call him their friend.
“He was always uplifting me,” said football teammate Trevor McGee.
He said Cole would help him memorize football plays. They played the same position and McGee had just picked up the sport.
Like many loved ones mourning his death, these teens have certain regrets, like not taking enough pictures with him.
“He was so nice. A contagious smile,” said Addison Harward.
They also said they’ll never bridge jump again.
“I feel like it’s a big lesson to all of us, and it will impact all of us heavily,” said Paskett.
They were still working to wrap their mind around his noticeable absence.
“It’s still hard for me to admit that he’s gone,” said Harward.
His friends planned to live their life like he did. They planned to lean on each other—revisiting the many memories they shared with their selfless, kind, caring, and athletic friend.
“There’s like no one else like him,” said Mohowski.
His friends planned to again hike Mt. Timpanogos in his memory on Thursday, and would do so every year in his honor.
They said Cole would appreciate the gesture, and probably be jealous too. He’d want to be leading the way.
A GoFundMe page* has been created to help his family cover funeral expenses.
*KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does KSL.com assure that the money deposited will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit or donation you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.