MISSOULA – More than 100 people have died this year so far in vehicle accidents in Montana.
Behind every crash we talk about, there is a family dealing with an unimaginable loss. It’s a story we don’t often hear. But one Missoula family shared their story about the day that changed their lives forever and the man they’ll never forget.
Melissa Peterson’s home is warm and loving as she plays with her young son, Cash. It’s a home she built with her husband of almost two years, Taylor Alford.
“The moment that I met Taylor, we were pretty much in sync, like, definitely soul mates,” she said. “Just like we’d known each other our whole lives. He was just one of those guys that you just instantly wanted to be around. You instantly wanted to talk to.”
They were thrilled when Cash was born. Taylor couldn’t wait to teach him to fly fish and hunt.
Taylor was on the road a lot as a heavy equipment operator for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, but this young family made every moment together count.
“That’s the thing I’m really proud of, that we made every weekend really happy,” Melissa said. “We did fun things with Cash. I don’t think there was a day we didn’t say ‘I love you’ to each other.”
But last Thursday, Taylor was coming home early to take his son to his first fair in Missoula before treating his wife to a concert in Spokane. The tickets were a Mother’s Day present they finally got to use.
He never came home.
“I knew something was wrong because he wasn’t answering my phone call and he didn’t check in like he normally did. I’d heard from him at 4:00 and he said he would call me from Thompson Falls. And so around 5:00, he hadn’t called, so I tried calling him. I could just feel, I felt like something was wrong.”
Taylor was killed in a car crash in Libby the afternoon of August 9. Taylor was a diabetic and Melissa believes her husband was suffering from a diabetic episode that left him incapacitated at the wheel of his car, maybe forgetting a candy bar or juice in his hurry to get home.
Law enforcement attempted to pull him over but couldn’t stop him in time. His car hit a traffic post. He didn’t survive.
“I could tell that he was gone when I looked at the door and there were two sheriff’s (deputies) there and that’s when they said Taylor had died tonight.”
At home now, Melissa sees the flowers, remembers the moments and is determined to carry on for her son. She says Taylor had just recently gotten a tattoo depicting a father and son hunting, something he dreamed of doing with Cash.
She’s still determined to make that happen.
“So I’m going to learn how to fly fish and I’m going to learn how to hunt because that was so important to Taylor. Because he’s only 18 months old, he hasn’t gotten to do those things yet. He never got the chance to do much.”
Taylor grew up in Shelby. His friends have set up a GoFundMe account in his memory.
A memorial for Taylor will be held at Marshall Mountain on August 25 at a time that will be later announced.
Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News