Young woman remembered for spreading love and joy

OROVILLE, Wash. (AP) - A 20-year-old who was fatally scalded in a Yellowstone National Park hot spring was remembered Monday as a spirited woman who loved life but was not afraid to die.

Sara Hulphers died about 14 hours after she and two 18-year-old men fell into the 178-degree thermal pool on Aug. 21.

Yuvia Storm, 21, said she and Hulphers were having the time of their lives working at Yellowstone for the summer - camping, hiking and making new friends.

''She was so happy,'' Storm said.

Hulphers had talked about death and the prospect of an afterlife, Storm said.

''She told me ... I had to be the one to spread the word she was excited about death,'' Storm said. ''Tell them I had a wonderful life - no regrets.''

About 300 people filled the Oroville High School auditorium on Monday to pay their respects. The room was decorated with sunflowers and evergreen boughs. A cascade of rainbow-color ribbons was draped over the doorway.

Hulphers' father, Dan, who lives in nearby Molson, sang two songs he had written in his daughter's memory. As he played the guitar and sang softly with two friends, many people sobbed.

A 2-week-old picture of Hulphers at Yellowstone, showing a young woman with a broad smile, dark hair tumbling down her back, her arms wide open and the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, was printed on the memorial program.

''She said it was the most wonderful experience she'd had in her whole life,'' Dan Hulphers said in an interview before the service.

''Everyone she worked with liked her. She said she never felt so loved.''

Sara Hulphers, a 1998 graduate of Oroville High, was a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham. She was studying science, math and languages.

''She loved Spanish, Mexico and Spanish-speaking people,'' her father recalled. ''She wanted to do something with the environment.''

Hulphers was a straight-A student and her family just learned a couple of days ago that she had won a new scholarship.

''It was kind of heart-breaking,'' her father said.

She liked to dance and sing, and she made friends wherever she went.

About 100 people gathered at the Hulphers home on Friday to celebrate her life, including 30 or 40 new friends from Yellowstone.

''She was such a loving person. We had no idea how much effect she had on the people around her,'' her father said.

Storm and Dan Hulphers said Sara and two of her friends, Lance Buchi, 18, of Sandy, Utah, and Tyler Montague, 18, of Salt Lake City, were on their way back from swimming in the Firehole River on the night of Aug. 21. It was dark, and they were accustomed to jumping over a number of little freshets and streams along the way home.

The three of them were walking arm-in-arm when they jumped over what they believed was a small stream and plunged accidentally through the earthen crust around a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin, Storm said.

Montague and Buchi were able to get out. Hulphers was pulled out by friends.

She died the next day at the burn unit in a Salt Lake City hospital with third-degree burns over her entire body.

Montague and Buchi were also badly burned and remain in critical but stable condition at the University of Utah burn center.

Storm's mother, Kay McDonald of Oroville, urged Sara's friends to spread the kind of joy in the world that the young woman did.

''We've got this hole in our hearts because Sara's gone. Let's start a Sara love fund.''


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