The lives of two young couples collided earlier this month in a fiery crash that left one person dead and two people injured.
One family is mourning the loss of a 28-year-old father of two who was killed in the accident on I-15. The other family is hoping that a 20-year-old new bride will soon wake from the coma she has been in since the accident.
Both families are relying on faith to help them cope.
It was June 1 when Thad Goodman was driving from work in American Fork to his Taylorsville home to have lunch with his wife, Susan, and their two girls, Hannah, 2 1/2, and Ivy who was turning 6 months old that day.
The same day, Tara and Josh Berendes had been married 10 days. They were moving from their native California to Colorado in a sport-utility vehicle filled with wedding gifts.
Tara Berendes graduated from Colorado Christian University on May 5 with a degree in psychology and was planning to pursue a master's degree in the same field. Her husband, Josh, 23, recently took a job as a youth minister at a non-denominational Christian church in Littleton, Colo.
The Goodmans were beginning a new chapter in their life together, too. They found a contractor to build a new house in Eagle Mountain, Utah County. They had a new baby. Thad had found a career he loved. "He was really happy in the last year," said his mother, Shari Goodman.
But the dreams of each couple came to an end that day at 1 p.m. on I-15 near the Point of the Mountain.
Goodman's northbound car went across the median into southbound lanes. His car collided with the Berendeses' sport-utility vehicle head-on.
Goodman, 28, was killed instantly.
Tara Berendes, 20, is in a coma. She suffers from tears in her diaphragm and spleen, a clot in her kidney and brain shearing, said her father, John Eichinger. The long-term effect of the injuries remains unknown.
Josh Berendes has been released from the hospital. "He suffered a broken collarbone. He fractured some bones in his hand because he had to punch his way to get out of the car," Eichinger said.
The Utah Highway Patrol continues to investigate what caused Thad Goodman to cross into opposite lanes of traffic, UHP spokeswoman Tammy Palmer said.
Within days of the accident, the families began talking by telephone.
John Eichinger does not want people to forget the pain of loss felt by the Goodman family. Frank Goodman, Thad's father, said he understands what the other family is experiencing because Thad was injured in an accident when he was 12 years old that also left him in a coma. He had to re-learn speech and some social skills. He never regained his senses of smell or taste because of the accident, Frank Goodman said.
"We'll probably get together and meet someday when it's right," Eichinger said.
The families are amazed by the people who approached the burning vehicles with extinguishers, and the driver of the pickup who used his vehicle to bump the SUV away from Goodman's burning car.
For now, Thad Goodman's widow, Susan, tries not to cry in front of her daughters. She tries to stay positive, reminding Hannah how their father used to spread out the blanket on the lawn to stargaze with her at night, and how he's now in heaven.
Susan cries at night, after tucking in the girls. She misses Thad's practical jokes and quirky humor. Sometimes she cannot believe her husband of four years is gone. She keeps waiting for him to come through the door and say in his deep voice, as he always did, "Hey, babe."
She turns to her LDS faith, searching for reasons why he's gone. "If it wasn't Thad's time, he would be protected in that accident. God needed him," she said.
Josh Berendes was not in a "good position to talk" to the media, Eichinger said, but he also prays. "It's kind of like, 'God, we know you have a plan. We don't know what it is, and we don't like it. We know there's something here, but we don't know what it is,' " Eichinger said.
Last week Tara Berendes was moved from the surgical intensive care unit at University Hospital to the neuro critical care unit and has been seen wiggling her hand and toes, opening and closing her eyes all good signs.
But doctors don't know when she will wake up. And rehabilitation could take months, her father said.
Tara and Josh Berendes originally are from Los Gatos, Calif., near San Jose. They attended the same church. "They fell in love on a mission in Romania where they were helping build an orphanage," Eichinger said.
Josh most likely will take a job in Salt Lake City while his wife recovers. Tara's father hopes to find work as a free-lance computer repairman so he, too, can remain in the area.
The couple's medical insurance had not started because Josh had only recently accepted his job. Medical expenses could be $1 million. Additional information about the couple and how to donate money can be found at www.tarajosh.com.
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