A recent University of Colorado graduate was one of two Americans among the 12 tourists killed in their sleep Thursday in Vietnam when a tour boat sank in that nation's deadliest tour-boat accident in 25 years.

Samantha Kay Taylor, 22, died in the accident in Vietnam's Ha Long Bay -- a popular tourist spot. Taylor graduated last May with degrees in math and physics after receiving academic scholarships at CU.

"Samantha was every parent's dream," said her father, Edward Taylor, of Norfolk, Va., in a statement provided to the Camera by a family friend. "She was such a sweet child. She had everything going for her. Everyone says this, but with my Samantha, this was so true: She was God's gift.

Vietnamese rescuers search for victims of a sunken tourist boat whose sail pole still emerged from water on Ha Long Bay in northern Quang Ninh province,
Vietnamese rescuers search for victims of a sunken tourist boat whose sail pole still emerged from water on Ha Long Bay in northern Quang Ninh province, Vietnam, on Thursday. University of Colorado graduate Samantha Taylor was one of two Americans killed in the accident. ( Dinh Manh Tu )

"And unfortunately, he only gave us that gift for a short while. Her mother and I were only blessed with her for a short while. Everyone could tell you about her intellect. But what was so amazing was that she was so well-rounded. She had people skills. She was so loving."

Taylor was traveling with George Fosmire, who survived the accident and also is a graduate in physics from CU.

During Taylor's time on campus, she worked in the CU Environmental Center, promoting recycling. She also was a physics tutor in the Learning Assistant program, which recruits top math and science students.

Physics professor Noah Finkelstein worked closely with Taylor, who helped build an after-school program to interest elementary and middle-school students in science.

The program -- Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community -- engaged minority students and those who are underrepresented in the sciences, oftentimes playing science-related games after school and taking field trips to the Boulder campus.

"She was very smart, engaging and energetic with students," Finkelstein said. "This is a terrible loss, and she is somebody who has already significantly impacted the lives of many others in her community."

Finkelstein was one of Taylor's advisers as she worked on her thesis, which focused on building after-school educational programs. She graduated from CU with honors.

Kat Potter said Taylor, her friend and former college roommate, enjoyed teaching science -- especially physics -- to children.

"She would have made a great teacher, and I'm so happy that she already had the chance to reach so many students during her life," Potter said.

Potter first met Taylor at a spelling bee in Grand Junction when the two were in middle school, and, in high school, they played on the same tennis team and competed together on the "Knowledge Bowl" team at Fruita Monument High School. They remained close friends while they both attended CU, volunteering together in the Women in Engineering Program.

"Sam was a fun girl to be around," Potter said. "She was always up for a concert, a board game, to go swing dancing with her group of friends or just catch up. I am so happy for the times we had. She had many friends and will be sorely missed."

Dan Baril, the manager for the Environmental Center's recycling program, said that Taylor was the Green Teams coordinator, overseeing a program that helped students living in the University Hill and Goss-Grove neighborhoods set up recycling and composting systems.

"She was very outgoing and positive, and she had a wealth of knowledge," Baril said.

As Folsom Field transitioned to zero-waste for home football games, Taylor volunteered to sort through the composting bins, Baril said.

The Environmental Center is organizing an on-campus memorial, though a date has not yet been determined for the event.

After graduation, Taylor left Boulder, traveling abroad to teach in China.

Larry Bell, director of International Education at CU, said Samantha Taylor had visited his office during her tenure as a student seeking information about programs in Asia, but she never enrolled in a program.

Holly Michelle Pyle -- the other American on the boat -- also died in the accident. Pyle was born in 1985.

Vacationers from Britain, Australia, Japan, Russia, France, Sweden and Switzerland died along with their Vietnamese tour guide in the accident Thursday, Vietnam's deadliest tour boat accident since the country opened to foreign visitors 25 years ago.

All were sleeping on the overnight ship, which was anchored in about 30 feet of water near a small island.

Police are investigating what caused the accident, and a Vietnamese official called for checks on safety of the more than 100 tour boats that ply the bay.

"This is a very rare and very unfortunate accident," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga.

Ha Long Bay, a U.N. World Heritage site dotted with limestone formations, is located near the Chinese border in the Gulf of Tonkin about three hours east of the capital, Hanoi.

Taylor is survived by her parents, Karen and Edward Taylor, of Norfolk, Va., and a sister, Sydney Taylor, 20, of Erie, and a brother, Jake, 18, also of Norfolk. Services will be held in Alexandria, Va., where Taylor was born.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.