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Three LDS Church missionaries had just finished teaching a lesson to a prospective member and were bicycling to their next appointment when they were struck by a car on a small road in Donna, Texas, their mission president said Thursday.
Trevor Reinhold Strong, 21, of Taylorsville, Utah, and Derek Jason Walker, 20, of Fairfield, Idaho, were both killed in the Tuesday night accident.
Survivor Zachary Todd Harris, 19, of Huntsville, Ala., said Thursday that he had been on his mission for five months, but had learned a lot from Strong and Walker, whom he had known for only a week.
"We could all be a little bit better if we could be like them," said Harris, who suffered scratches and bruises in the accident and said he expected to continue his mission.
"I definitely will try to work harder. They were very hard workers," Harris told The Tribune Thursday. "As I continue and work in south Texas, I am going to try to continue to enjoy it just as much as they did."
Stephen Trayner, president of the McAllen, Texas mission, said the missionaries spent the day of the accident at a mission conference, then went out Tuesday night to proselytize.
Authorities say the vehicle that hit the three missionaries head-on was trying to pass another car at the time. All three missionaries reportedly were wearing helmets and had their bike lights on at the time of the accident.
Trayner and his wife spent the next day offering emotional support to more than 100 missionaries throughout the south Texas area.
"We sang and we cried and we laughed and bore testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ," Trayner said.
Missionaries also were encouraged to write down thoughts to be passed on to the families of the three missionaries. Counseling and emotional support would be provided as needed to the missionaries and their families, Trayner said.
"The missionaries have been deeply saddened by the loss of their companions," Trayner said. "Our hearts have been broken, but we rejoice that we will see them again some day."
Two months ago, Trayner asked Strong about going home on his scheduled date and Strong responded, "I love what I do so much, and I don't want to go home." Strong extended his stay but was planning to come home to Utah in time for Thanksgiving.
Trayner's wife said she and her husband felt toward Strong and Walker as if they were their own sons.
"We feel a great loss and feel a hole in our hearts when we think of Elder Strong and Elder Walker," she said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Johnny Hernandez said the suspected driver, Jose Luis Garza-Flores, 32, of Weslaco, Texas, turned himself in to police Wednesday morning at the U.S./Mexican border, about 8 miles from where the accident occurred.
Garza-Flores was treated for minor injuries suffered in the crash and booked into the Hidalgo County Jail,where he was being held on a $100,000 bail, according to the Hidalgo County Sheriff's office. Garza-Flores has appeared before a judge in connection with two counts of failure to stop at an accident causing injury or death, both third-degree felonies, according to KGBT Action 4 News, in Harlingen, Texas.