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From wedding plans to funeral plans, families mourn 21-year-old killed in I-70 crash

TONGANOXIE, Kan. -- On westbound Interstate 70 near the 206th Street bridge in Leavenworth County, there's little sign of the deadly crash a day earlier that's now causing two families so much pain.

Tristan Kuritz, 21, was killed. His fiancee 21-year-old Samantha Duckett was in the passenger seat, suffering minor injuries.

"The impact actually threw him onto her lap, so he died in her lap," said Denise Adkins, Kuritz's mother.

Kuritz and Duckett had been friends since the third grade, then Kuritz moved to a different school district.

"They stayed in touch all that time through Facebook, and they didn't start dating until they were 17," Adkins said.

The young couple recently got engaged.

Samantha Duckett and Tristan Kuritz

"He sent her on a scavenger hunt and ended up at Powell Gardens where he was on his knee. He knew what his heart wanted, so he followed it," Adkins said.

It's believed the two were on their way back home to Lawrence on Sunday afternoon in Kuritz's Chevy Cruze.

They encountered slowed traffic as they came to the crest of a hill near mile marker 214. The Kansas Highway Patrol said Kuritz slowed down as did the three vehicles in front of him, but a Ford E-45, struck them from behind.

Duckett was taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center, but has since been released. Kuritz was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tristan Kuritz and Sami Duckett on the night of their engagement.

"He's going to be missed. He loved people so much," Adkins said.

As the Kansas Highway Patrol continues their investigation into the chain-reaction crash, Kuritz's stepfather offered this advice to all drivers: "Slow down, pay attention, and look ahead. Always look ahead," Lance Adkins said.

Kuritz attended De Soto High School where he was heavily involved in theater and enjoyed Star Wars. He went on to earn a degree in coding and was working in his field. Duckett attends the University of Kansas.

"We were planning for a wedding next year. Now we're planning for a funeral. It's just hard. No parent should be burying their kid first," Lance Adkins said.

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