When their friends share their memories of Destiny Dixon and Debbie Swann, it almost sounds like they’re talking about the same person.
The two Arizona women, who died last week in a utility-terrain vehicle (UTV) accident at the Sand Flats Recreation Area, were both known and loved for their warm and extroverted personalities. The news of their tragic deaths drew an outpouring of tributes on social media sites like Facebook.
“(Destiny) was always super outgoing, bubbly and witty,” Carrie Fesler told the Moab Sun News. “She was a really sweet girl; she was a lot of fun to be around.”
“(Debbie) just really had one of the most amazing spirits that I’ve ever seen in someone,” Kim Koogler-Franklin said. “It’s kind of like she was a light, and we were all moths drawn to her.”
Their shared love of backcountry trips brought them to the Moab area late last week with a group of other UTV riders. Together, the 28-year-old Dixon and the 51-year-old Swann set out on the famed Hell’s Revenge Trail on Friday, Sept. 2.
Dixon was driving a Polaris Ranger UTV uphill when it reportedly tipped on the right passenger side and slid an estimated 25 feet down the slickrock along the Tip Over Challenge section of the trail. Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said the vehicle burst into flames within moments, adding that neither woman would have had time to react.
“It happened almost spontaneously when it slid down there,” Neal said.
Sheriff’s dispatchers were first notified that the vehicle was engulfed in flames at about 3:50 p.m. that afternoon. Representatives from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Grand County Search and Rescue, Bureau of Land Management and Moab Valley Fire Department responded to the scene, where the vehicle was still in flames.
Both women were pronounced dead at the scene, according to Neal.
“It was just a tragic, tragic accident,” he said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and while many commenters on social media sites have speculated that a mechanical failure may have been to blame, Neal said he cannot comment on the possible explanations for the accident.
“Until we actually get some expert results on this, it would be premature for me to say,” he said.
Destiny Dixon remembered as a free spirit
Dixon, who also went by the name Destiny Ingram, had ties to Prescott, Arizona. But she moved around frequently, and Fesler said that many people called her a “Gypsy” because of her wandering spirit.
Dixon did some modeling work at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and she was modeling for another company when she met the Feslers’ son at a Harley Davidson trade show.
The two hit it off, and he introduced her to his parents, who own and operate Fesler Built, a hotrod restoration shop in Scottsdale, Arizona. They soon hired her to model for Fesler Built at several auto trade shows, including the famed SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
While they hadn’t seen each other in a while, Carrie Fesler said they kept in touch through Facebook, and she was able to follow Dixon’s adventures in more recent years.
At one time, Fesler said, Dixon trained to be a U.S. Forest Service Hot Shot, but when that didn’t work out, she decided to pursue a career in taxidermy. Fesler said she would good-naturedly tease Dixon about her choice of professions. But Dixon was committed to it.
She learned the trade with the help of a Denver-area taxidermist and did full-time contract work for outdoor retail giant Cabela’s. Eventually, she returned to Prescott, where she worked for a taxidermist friend, although Fesler said Dixon recently moved to some place in Utah.
She leaves behind a dog she adored named Dixon.
“Everyone on social media is talking about how he’s really going to miss her,” Fesler said.
Another friend, Tanner Yeager, said that Dixon was one of his first friends who enjoyed true freedom, and who seemed to truly love life.
“You showed me that it was okay to live an unconventional life and do things a little bit different,” he said in a tribute to her.
“A friend to everyone she met”
Swann, who lived in Apache Junction, Arizona, grew up in Ohio and moved to the Grand Canyon State shortly after she graduated from high school.
Most recently, she worked as an estimator and project manager for Caretaker, a Phoenix-area landscaping company.
Her colleagues remembered her as someone who was so much more than just a co-worker to them: She was a friend, a mentor and a confidant, they said in a statement on the company’s website.
“While her time on earth was short, it was filled with a love of life, family and friends,” they said. “Debbie seized every waking moment; she was always enjoying life. Debbie was a friend to everyone she met. There are no words that will do justice to the sweet, loving, vibrant person she was.”
Koogler-Franklin said she met Swann through her husband about eight years ago. Swann worked alongside her husband for another landscaping company, and they became really close friends, she said.
Her husband last spoke with Swann on Wednesday, Aug. 31, when she told him that she was planning to head up to Moab after work to enjoy one of her favorite hobbies: riding ATVs and UTVs.
Swann is survived by her daughter and a 2-month-old grandson, as well as a son and a stepson, among many other family members.
“She was doing what she loved and was taken too soon from us,” her family said in an obituary.
Her one regret, they said, was that she was no longer close enough to watch her nephew in Ohio play soccer, or hear her nieces sing more often.
Koogler-Franklin said she has not spoken directly to Swann’s family, but said she’s heard that they are holding up as best they can.
“I think everyone’s in shock because it’s so unexpected,” she said. “It all seems so surreal.”
Cause of fiery accident in Sand Flats area remains under investigation