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RIVERTON — Esther Hopkin recalls seeing Kaiden Cherrington come to school well before students were expected to be in class. Kaiden was a lighthearted and outgoing ninth-grader at Oquirrh Hills Middle School, whom Hopkin had as a dance student for the past three years.
“Kaiden was just this ball of sunshine,” Hopkin said. “She was a happy, cheery face right at the front of the door, right when you came in.”
Kaiden, 14, was a passenger in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle driven by her 16-year-old sister headed to school when it collided with another vehicle at 12600 South and 2700 West, Unified police detective Ken Hansen said.
Hansen said the Volkswagen was making a left-hand turn from westbound 12600 South onto southbound 2700 West when it collided with an orange Subaru heading east on 12600 South, Hansen said.
Kaiden was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in critical condition, but died there from her injuries. Her 4-year-old sister, who was strapped in a car seat in the car, was also transported to Primary Children’s Hospital in serious condition, but was expected to survive, Hansen said.
The 16-year-old driver was listed in good condition and released to her parents. Two people inside the Subaru weren’t injured.
The crash remains under investigation. Detectives were still trying to determine who had the right of way at the time of the collision, Hansen said.
Eastbound lanes of 12600 South were closed for at least two hours as police cleared the scene, which was less than a block from Riverton High School and three blocks from Oquirrh Hills Middle School.
Jordan School District officials said councilors were on-hand at both schools Tuesday to talk with students about the crash.
McKinley Withers, health and wellness specialist for the district, said he didn’t know Kaiden personally, but said that it was apparent listening to students Tuesday that she was well respected and liked at the school.
“(She) was someone they looked up to and that they will miss having around,” he said.
Hopkin began to push away tears as she talked about how Kaiden loved dance and theatre arts. She also described her as a hardworking student. In fact, Hopkin expected to have Kaiden in one of her dance classes Tuesday.
“It was rough,” Hopkin said of that class. “The kids get really tight-knit. They were very, very sad — lots of sniffles, lots of Kleenexes, we just moved the Kleenexes and the garbage cans to the center of everybody as we processed everything.”
In addition, a makeshift memorial of notes, blue ribbons and balloons was set up by friends at the scene of the crash and at her home Tuesday evening. They said blue was her favorite color. It included a handwritten sign that read, "We miss you Kaiden" on a nearby power pole.
More than a dozen friends also wrote notes of support for her sister who was driving the car.
Kathryn Moore, who said she was a friend of Kaiden's since third grade, said they liked to walk or hang out and talk. Moore said Kaiden had a sense of humor and was energetic.
"She'd always smile," she said.
Sage Jenson, who attended the same church as Kaiden, said she was a friendly person who was the first to welcome her in the same class of young women as her.
"She was always really nice, she was always smiling, she was so happy all the time," Jenson said. "That was something everyone loves about her. She was a light, she was always there, she was always happy. ... She loved everyone. She had enough love in the world for every single person."
Contributing: Jed Boal, KSL TV
Editor's note: Officials initially said Kaiden Cherrington was 15 years old. This article has been updated to show she was 14 years old.