Bride’s wedding shoot becomes tribute to late fiance after tragic accident

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<pIn a lace-embroidered white dress, holding a clutch of yellow sunflowers and surrounded by family and friends on her wedding

<pLast fall, Murphy was responding to an accident scene when he was struck by a Dodge Ram pickup truck, according to local authorities.

<p“We were responding to the accident,” Montgomery Fire Chief Tim Showalter told ABC News. “I was at the other end [of the accident scene] and I heard the collision [and] I ran to the scene.”

<pLike Murphy, the pickup truck’s driver, firefighter Colby Blake, 26, was responding to the accident scene.

<pUnlike Murphy, Blake had apparently been drinking.

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<pBlake admitted to police at the scene that he had six drinks and was talking on his cell phone prior to the crash, according to an accident report.

<pMurphy died at the scene. Blake was charged with causing death while operating a motor vehicle, according to ABC News affiliate WTHI. Blake entered a plea of not guilty at a preliminary hearing. His case remains pending.

<pPadgett was at Murphy’s house that night, doing some wedding planning, and when she returned home she got the news.

<p“I remember falling out of my bed numb from head to toe when I heard the news,” she said. “I felt like someone was playing a dirty joke on me like I was having a complete nightmare."

<pA third-generation firefighter, Murphy grew up in two families: his biological family and his firehouse family.

<p“I’ve known him all his life,” Showalter said. “He grew up with my son. They were just like brothers. They joined the fire department on the same day," Showalter told ABC News, his voice cracking as he recalled the awful day.

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“”This is the finale of us. I wanted to celebrate it, even if I don’t get to walk down the aisle and say I do.

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<pA “surprise” for the bride

<pPadgett first met wedding photographer Mandi Kneep when Kneep shot the couple’s engagement photo shoot last fall, in a green park within the Glendale State Fish and Wildlife area, an 8,000-acre state park preserve about 100 miles south of Indianapolis.

<pThe photographer and her subject got along well, and made plans for Kneep to shoot the couple’s wedding as well.

<pShrugging off her grief and determined to memorialize the man she loved and lost, Padgett returned last month to the same park, made up as a bride, with her bridesmaids lined up, and their with their families and other guests in tow.

<pThe American flag and Murphy's firefighter uniform, hat and boots stood in his place as Padgett smiled, standing alone.

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<pNo bridal detail had been overlooked.

<pAt 4 p.m. Padgett was in her bridal suite, surrounded by loved ones. Her hair was styled and each strand perfectly placed. At 5 p.m., shimmery eye shadow was set and blush applied to her rosy cheeks.

<pBy 6 p.m., Padgett was departing her dressing room to walk the dirt trail that led to her waiting family and friends.

<pKneep said in a telephone interview that the photo shoot was both heartbreaking and remarkable — fraught with mixed emotions: joy for the couple’s love and sadness for its abrupt and tragic conclusion.

<pKneep said photography is far more than a photo. It is memories that will last a lifetime.

<p“Even if it was hard for me, I can do hard things for people,” Kneep explained. “People who need healing or help, I can help them.”

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<pIt was a powerful but painful day for the two families, and Kneep wanted to do something special for the brave young bride.

<pShe hit upon an idea: superimpose Murphy’s image beside his bride.

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<pKneep said she wanted to surprise Padgett, given all she’s been through.

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<p“She was so grateful for the [superimposed] photo and said people need to see this,” Kneep said.

<pWhen all was said and done, Padgett knew she had made the right choice.

<p“It was closure," she said. "I’ve been through so much and it led to our wedding. This is the finale of us. I wanted to celebrate it, even if I don’t get to walk down the aisle and say I do.”