Air Force Academy officer killed in wrong-way crash

Air Force Academy

O’Dell Isaac

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Family members, friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of an Air Force Academy officer who was killed in a head-on crash over the weekend.

Capt. Morgan Taylor, 31, was driving east on Interstate 70 on Saturday when her car was struck head-on near Manhattan, Kan., by a pickup truck driving the wrong way, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. The driver of the pickup — John Wagnaar III, 34, of Manhattan — also died in the crash.

As of Tuesday evening, Highway Patrol officials did not yet know if Wagnaar was driving impaired.

Taylor, a Judge Advocate General officer, was slated to begin Squadron Officer School on Monday at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, academy officials said.

” Captain Taylor was a bright light in our USAFA family and a highly respected officer,” Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, U.S. Air Force Academy superintendent, said in a statement. “I’ve spoken to her family to express our deepest sympathies and to relay how incredibly special Morgan was to all of us.”

Family members will remember Taylor as a highly focused, career-driven individual who “lived her life to the fullest,” her sister Melissa said.

“Morgan was one of a kind,” Melissa said. “She loved her career, and her life, and her friends. I already miss her so much.”

Taylor’s JAG colleagues said that while she was a fierce adversary on the job, she fostered a congenial atmosphere among the small cadre of military lawyers.

“The JAG world can be very adversarial, with prosecutors going against defense counsel,” said Capt. Manzurakhon Talipova, a fellow JAG officer. “But for her that was just work. Outside of the office, she loved to bring everyone together for game nights, or dinner at her apartment. She was one of the most thoughtful and caring people I’ve ever met.”

“We were on opposite sides. She was a prosecutor and I’m defense counsel,” said Capt. Heather Bezold, who added that Taylor was her first friend at the academy. “But that didn’t matter to her. She was like a ray of sunshine — so happy and wonderful to be around.”

A 2019 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law who was commissioned into the Air Force in 2020, Taylor served as deputy chief of military justice for the academy’s JAG corps. Before reporting to the academy in July, she served at assistant staff judge advocate at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

Taylor’s professional acumen and personal charisma will be impossible to replace, co-workers said.

“She was so unique,” Talipova said. “I can’t imagine this place without her.”


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