Family, friends gather for vigil to honor 14-year-old killed in crash

May 18, 2018, 12:14 AM | Updated: 12:15 am

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah – A large group of friends and family gathered along 4500 South in Taylorsville Thursday night to say goodbye to a 14-year-old girl killed in a crash.

Nevaeh Padilla was killed when, police say, the SUV she was riding in hit another car head-on early Tuesday morning. According to a probable cause statement from Unified police, investigators say Casey Cook-Ziemelis was driving the SUV along 4500 South near 1100 West.

Two people in an oncoming vehicle said they saw the SUV cross into their lane. They told police they tried to swerve, but they said the SUV appeared to change direction to crash into them. The vehicles collided and the SUV rolled over. Padilla was killed. Police said Cook-Ziemelis ran from the scene, but was found by officers shortly after. Police arrested him for investigation of automobile homicide and aggravated assault.

“What we’re doing right now is the hardest thing for my family. She is one of sixteen of our grandkids,” Padilla’s grandmother Brenda Kelly said at a candlelight vigil at the crash scene Thursday evening.

Family, friends, and strangers gathered around a small memorial made up of pictures, flowers, and candles. They said a prayer, played some songs, and released balloons.

“You could just feel all the love. All the friends and the people who are probably here who didn’t even know her, but are sharing this time with us,” Kelly said. “I’m thankful that they’re here because the more the support, it’s a good feeling for my daughter Melissa, who’s just devastated beyond words,”

Kelly said they would always remember Padilla as a fun-loving eighth-grader who was friendly.

“Just wanted everyone to just love her, you know? She loved them and she accepted love with no rejections,” Kelly said.

The family set up a fundraiser to help with funeral expenses.

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Family, friends gather for vigil to honor 14-year-old killed in crash