Teenage girl lost in church van crash had found her calling, remembered for her smile

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- On Friday, a single father lost his teenage daughter who was about to start a new chapter in her life. The 17-year-old girl, along with two other teens, died when a church van they were in crashed near Bolivar, Mo. The youth group from Faith Chapel Assembly of God in Overland Park was on its way to an end of summer float trip.

Samara Bayse's dad told FOX4 that faith was her life. The 17-year-old was a leader in her youth group, and a counselor at church camp. When she left for a church trip to the Current River on Friday - she saw it as a new adventure in her life.

Her dad, Thomas Bayse, called her "Angel Face" from the beginning.

"We named her that even before she was born. Before we knew anything about her. Anyone who knows her would say, 'yeah, that`s a real reflection of her.' She had the smile. It lit up a room. She just had that demeanor about her that people wanted to be her friend," Bayse said.

Samara and her family moved to Johnson County a few years ago, and found a home in Faith Chapel Assembly of God in Overland Park.

"They saw that she loved Jesus, and they knew it, and there was no hiding it," Bayse said.

The 17-year-old started becoming a leader in church, and this summer she found her calling.

"She wanted to go into the ministry. She wanted to be a youth pastor. That was her heart. She loved touching other young people`s lives," her dad said.

At camp she received a scholarship for her first year of school in ministry, books and tuition paid.

"My heart leaped. It brought so much joy. In fact, next week she was supposed to start her first class and take her first test," Bayse said.

But that changed on Friday, when her youth group left for a float trip on the Current River.

"She was outside waiting for everybody spinning around, dancing, and laughing, because she was so excited," the dad said.

The Missouri Highway Patrol says a tire blowout in Bolivar, Mo., caused the van full of teenagers to go off the road, overturn, and hit a tree.

"State police called me, and I had a 40-minute drive back here from work and the whole time I was praying, and just saying - no," Bayse said.

Three teens - including Samara - lost their lives, and two others were seriously hurt. At the crash site - they recovered Samara's notes for class.

"Today we know she`s with her mother in heaven. She gets to meet her grandfather that`s she`s never met. She`s meeting people that I`ve told her about for the very first time," Bayse said.

Bayse knows he's not the only one in mourning. Two other families are feeling his same pain.

"I want to be able to have that time to be able to talk with them, to grieve with them, to cry with them. There`s several individuals I want to be able to reach out to, but right now it`s me time," he said.

He says even though Samara never got to finish school and become an adult, she always lived her dream.

"Her heart`s desire was to see those who didn`t know Jesus to know Jesus, and she showed them that through her life," Bayse said.

Bayse also told FOX4 that the tires on the church van were checked before the group left on the trip. The thing he will miss about his daughter the most is when she would call to tell him all about her day.

The church set up a GoFundMe page for the victims of this crash, click on this link for more information.

There was a private vigil Saturday night at the church to remember the two other teens killed in the crash-- and the other survivors.

The other two teens are 14-year-old Hannah Foy and 16-year-old David Martin. Two other teens and an adult passenger have serious injuries.