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South Salt Lake » The parents and family members of Kristen Kay Taylor and Gregory Bennin were in Las Vegas on Wednesday waiting for the Salt Lake City couple to arrive for a wedding. It was their wedding, and they never made it.
On their way to Nevada, about 12:30 p.m., the couple was involved in a 13-car pileup on Interstate 15 near Cedar City, the Utah Highway Patrol reported.
Taylor had stopped the Kia Spectra she was driving behind a tractor-trailer that had just been in a crash with several other cars in heavy snow and low visibility. Moments later, a second tractor-trailer slammed into the Kia from behind, smashing the couple's car between the two semi-trucks. Taylor, 25, died. Bennin lost part of his left arm in the crash, said Eric Winter, an outreach director at the pair's K2 The Church in South Salt Lake.
Winter described Taylor's death as shocking and sad. He heard about the tragedy Wednesday night after receiving an e-mail from another church member.
"She's been part of our [church] family for a long time," Winter said. "We are still grieving her loss."
Winter said Taylor helped open K2 The Church in South Salt Lake in 2004 after moving to Utah from Ohio. She loved children and was an integral part of the church's youth program.
Tammy Holm, the church's preschool director, said Taylor taught a Sunday school class for 2-year-old children. Her son Erik had been one of Taylor's students.
"She was just a sweet girl," Holm said after a prayer vigil for Taylor and Bennin at the church Thursday night.
The couple's engagement photo was projected at the back of the church on two large screens. Church members, even those who didn't know Taylor and Bennin, cried and prayed for them.
"She had heart, she had character, she had strength," said Sim Lessley, a friend and church spiritual advisory board member.
K2 The Church pastor David Elshaug said Taylor had overcome personal struggles in her life, including the sudden loss of her brother, who died from an illness six months ago.
She also fulfilled a dream when she spent three months in 2008 working with children in Tanzania, Winter said.
"Generally she was just a great person," he said.
Holm said Taylor and Bennin got engaged over the summer and she was excited about being married.
"Today should have been a whole other day," Holm said. "It should have been the best day of their lives."