Remembering Carson Koch and Brayden Eaton
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Remembering Carson Koch and Brayden Eaton

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As spring break came to an end and Hillcrest students were returning home, another heartbreak struck the Hillcrest community. Two juniors, Carson Koch and Brayden Eaton, were driving right outside of Littlefield, Arizona on Interstate 15 when their car rolled over, fatally injuring both.

The two had been with Koch’s family on a trip to Southern California during the break and were driving behind the family on their way back from a short stop in Las Vegas.

This tragedy came a little over a week after the loss of Brayden Eaton’s mother, Kathleen Campbell. According to St. George News, Brayden and her younger sister, Caydance, had moved in with their grandmother because their mother had passed away from terminal liver failure.

After hearing the news, students at Hillcrest reached out to the families, sharing their favorite memories and pictures they had with the two teens. A video including more memories can be seen here.

Tui Halatokua shared, “I met Carson in orientation of freshman year and we became friends through basketball class. This one time, I denied going to see a movie with your family because I didn’t want to spend your money or be a dead weight. I said, ‘It’s fine, my dads coming to pick me up.’ Carson decided to stay over going to see a movie and we just played ‘Black Ops 2’ for four hours. One moment he stops and tells me, ‘Hey man, you have to stop doubting yourself, you’re one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met, I swear on my mom dude, I’m not lying.’ Then, I realized he was the coolest dude I’ve ever met. He only saw the positives in you when everyone else only saw the negatives. I am so grateful to have been your sons friend and he was a blessing in all of our lives.”

Megan Okumura wrote, “My favorite memory of Carson was sitting next to him during seminary his freshman year. He always sat in the back normally sat alone, so one day I decided to sit by him and be his friend. From that day forward, we always sat next to each other in seminary and he changed my name to Seminary Buddy. His heart was gold. He didn’t want me to walk home in the rain one day, so he made sure that his grandpa took me home so I wouldn’t get wet. He always said hi to me in the Hall and gave me a hug. He was so supportive of me when it came to my pageant. He always called me a princess and would brag to others about being my friend — little did he know that I bragged about being his friend, too.”

One post on Brayden’s Facebook wall from Trinity Dalbini said, “You will be missed by all! I hope you rest easy! Working with you was always the best! You had such a big heart and a sweet sweet soul. Always giving whenever you could and smiling so big any chance you got! You would always light up the room and your sarcasm was always always always so funny!”

Makayla Whetsel, a junior at Hillcrest, has known Brayden since childhood.  They used to spend much of their time together going on little adventures, getting ready for dances together, and singing Christmas songs in the front yard for the whole neighborhood to hear while hoping to gain fame during these little performances.

“I found out about their deaths while on (vocal ensemble) tour.  It was an hour before we had to perform, and I was still in a state of denial,” said Whetsel.  “After I walked off the stage, I absolutely lost it. Brayden and I used to be a lot closer when were kids until our freshman year. We looked forward to math class because we had it together along with our other friend, Jeremy Rogers. When I was in physics class, Carson’s mom, Jody, had called me to ask if I could collect memories people had with Brayden to hang them up during the funeral.  It was great see all the experiences everyone shared with her. Reading what others had written was more of a healing process for me. I have been getting better with support from my friends and family, which has been very nice.”

Candlelight Vigil at Falcon Park

Brayden was also known by her teachers for being a hard-working student in class.  Though she was quiet and private, she still worked hard to provide a better future for her and her younger sister.

“She was quiet and sweet, she really cared about her grades and it was one of her priorities to do well in class,” said English teacher, Shelly Edmonds. “Her school work was very important to her and she maintained a job (at Buffalo Wild Wings) as well.”

Natalie Healy, junior at Hillcrest, grew up with Carson and always felt like he was like a brother to her. They had been family friends since Natalie and Carson were just five-years-old after they moved to the same neighborhood.

“We went to kindergarten together and we were also in the same class.  We would walk home from and to school, we would always play together and have lots of fun together,” said Healy. “I remember that he used to be one of my only friends. He was really competitive and teased everyone. He was super sweet and funny, I am glad I got to grow up with Carson because he was my best friend.”

On Wednesday, April 11 at Falcon Park, both families held a vigil to remember the two teens who had been dating for 16 months. Friends, family and Hillcrest students gathered together to commemorate Brayden and Carson. Balloons and posters were signed with last memories of the two, followed by a candlelight vigil.

A dual funeral took place on Saturday, April 14, where a viewing was held from 10am to 11:30am and the services started at 12pm. Music was put together by the Palmatier family and many speakers captured the lives and strong influence of the teens.  

At the viewing, friends and family posted their favorite memories with Brayden and Carson for everyone to see. Both made a powerful impact on their families, friends, and the whole community. They will be deeply missed.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the teens funeral expenses and to help the families. The Koch family is also offering a $1000 scholarship to one Hillcrest High School senior to provide them with the opportunity to work hard and reach their dreams. The Carson Koch “Work Hard. Dream Big” scholarship will be awarded in his name on Senior Awards Night in memory of his passion and tenacity. Email [email protected] with any questions.

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