Friends remember Fruita graduate who died in accident in Vietnam

Samantha Taylor is shown in her yearbook photo from Fruita Monument High School.

Fruita Monument High School student teacher Trey Downey looks through the yearbook for pictures of Samantha Taylor at the high school. Taylor was one of 12 people who died when a boat carrying tourists capsized in Vietnam this week.

There she is, forever smiling on pages 116, 121 and 126 in Fruita Monument High School’s 2006 yearbook. Involved in drama, tennis, National Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl, the math club and even the school’s Elite Ping-Pong Society, the memory of Samantha Taylor, whom everyone called “Sam,” lives on.

As a young girl, about 4 or 5 years old, she is pictured in a blue shirt and pink headband offering a sweet, but slightly mischievous smile.

“You are an absolute joy to be with,” say the words underneath in italic print. “Never stop learning. Never stop laughing. Never stop loving. Love Ya Baby, Mom and Dad.”

It had been five years since Taylor graduated from Fruita Monument High School. In that time she graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was teaching English in China.

But Taylor’s life was taken quickly when she was sleeping on a tour boat in a bay in Vietnam and the vessel suddenly capsized Thursday.

According to The Associated Press, Taylor was one of a dozen passengers who drowned after the boat’s hull broke in the early dawn hours.

“She was one of those people who lives for adventure,” said Trey Downey, a student teacher at Fruita Monument High School. Downey and Taylor were in the same high school graduating class.

“She was the funniest, happiest, bubbliest person you could encounter,” he said.

Fruita Monument High School English teacher Kelley Gusich said she remembered having Taylor in some classes and was shocked to hear the news of her death on her way into work Friday.

“This is just a tragedy. It’s inexplicable and awful,” she said.

Gusich said she is heartbroken after losing four students in the past year-and-a-half.

“It’s just like, ‘Oh no, not again,’” Gusich said. “She was one of those girls whose death will affect a lot of people. She had that contagious laugh. You want to encourage them to be adventurous, but you can’t let this discourage people.”

Taylor’s father, Edward Taylor, who lives in Norfolk, Va., told the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper that his daughter had a great intellect and was well-rounded and very loving.

Taylor graduated with degrees in math and physics. She worked to promote recycling at the university’s environmental center. She also helped build an after-school program aimed at getting elementary and middle school students interested in science, the Associated Press reported.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry confirmed the survivors as two Danes, one German, two Italians, one American, one Australian, one French and one Swiss, according to the Associated Press.


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