[Photo by Jeff Richards / Courtesy of Spanish Valley Mortuary]

Kayden Cresswell loved horses, riding dirt bikes and playing football for the Grand County High School Red Devils. But all that ended in a split-second tragedy on Thursday, Feb. 25, when the vehicle he was driving crossed over the center line and collided head-on with another vehicle.

Cresswell was traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 191, en-route to his high school promenade practice, when his Chevy Cobalt crossed into the southbound lane near mile marker 122, striking a Toyota Tundra driven by Moab resident Kai Malloy. The 16-year-old high school junior, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed upon impact.

Malloy, who co-founded Canyonlands Computer Consulting, was transported to Moab Regional Hospital in serious condition. He has since been released and is at home recovering from multiple broken bones and other injuries he sustained in the accident.

Malloy’s wife Jen Hancewicz told the Moab Sun News that she and her husband are grateful for the help they received from emergency responders and hospital staff. She also thanked the community for its kindness.

“Our hearts and deepest sympathies are with the Cresswell family,” she said.

At a Feb. 27 candlelight vigil held on the Grand County High School football field, Cresswell was remembered as an aspiring athlete, a cheerful young man and someone who was always ready to lend a hand.

The vigil was attended by several hundred people and opened with comments from Red Devils football coach Dennis Wells, who said that the field was one of Cresswell’s favorite places.

Wells said his memories of Cresswell started with seeing him as a boyish freshman and ended with him becoming a man.

“Kayden always had a smile on his face,” Wells said. “I’m always going to remember him walking down the hallway, or in the classroom or on the football field. He always had that smile.”

As a football player, Wells said he watched Cresswell grow from uncertainty in his new position as a defensive end, to being the second leading tackler on the team. And he would have been the leader next year, Wells said.

“He learned his position and gave it everything he had,” he said.

Wells urged the assembled students to emulate Cresswell’s example.

“I would like to make this school and this community a better place and learn something from what’s happened to Kayden,” he said. “I want to dedicate this next season not to winning football games, but to being better men like Kayden was. I urge all of you, in Kayden’s honor, to be the best you can be.”

Friend and teammate Lucas Crane said that Cresswell was a great kid who loved football and trucks.

“I call him brother,” Crane said. “We were brothers and teammates. We were thrown together and we were one, because of him.”

Longtime childhood friend Kortney Backus described Cresswell as a fun-loving and hardworking kid who always wanted the best for everyone.

“It’s a huge loss to such a small community,” Backus said.

Backus said that Cresswell was a cowboy through and through and that he always looked the part.

“In the third grade he wore his spurs to school everyday, and he always had a rope in his hand,” she said. “He always wore boots and Wranglers, even to church.”

Backus, who participates in breakaway roping in the high school rodeo, said that she tried to get Cresswell to ride in the rodeo as well, but that in the end football won out.

Backus rides on Cresswell’s horse Dusty.

“He used to ride that horse all over town,” she said.

Cresswell was born on Aug. 3, 1999, the youngest of four sons born to Matt and Heidi Cresswell of Moab.

Matt Cresswell addressed the assembled crowd at the vigil and thanked everyone for their support.

“I want you to know that your kind thoughts and prayers have been felt by us and helped get us through this grief and heartache,” he said. “Though Kayden is gone, he’s just gone on. And he’s better off, and we’re better off for knowing him.”

Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Lawrence Hopper said it appears that driver fatigue may have been a factor in the accident.

He called the tragedy “100 percent preventable,” and urged drivers and their passengers to fasten their seat belts, or to pull off the road if they’re tired.

“This is just another painful reminder of the importance of wearing your seat belt,” he said. “It’s a tragic example of another young life cut short, but this did not have to happen.”

Cresswell was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was a priest in the Moab 5th Ward. He recently overcame his fear of public speaking and gave the blessing on the sacrament as recently as the previous Sunday.

He is survived by his parents and his three older brothers: Jacob Cresswell, of Richfield, Utah; Ty Cresswell of Montana; and Justin Cresswell, currently serving a mission in Lima, Peru.

He is also survived by grandparents Heinz and Hanna Okolowitz of Orem, Utah, and many extended family members, including aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Cresswell was preceded in death by his grandparents, Joseph Cresswell and Kathryn Cresswell.

Kayden Cresswell killed in Feb. 25 car accident; second driver is recovering from injuries

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 3, at the Moab LDS Stake Center, 701 E. Locust Lane, with Moab 5th Ward Bishop Ryan Jackman conducting. A viewing was held the day before, and there will also be a viewing at the church one hour before the funeral on March 3, starting at 10 a.m. Burial will be in the Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery in Spanish Valley.

An account has been set up in Kayden’s name at Mountain America Credit Union, where donations can be made to help the family pay for funeral expenses and a gravestone, in addition to a memorial scholarship fund that they plan to establish in his name.

Kayden always had a smile on his face … I’m always going to remember him walking down the hallway, or in the classroom or on the football field. He always had that smile.