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East Lake High student Erica Hansen dies after truck hits her in Oldsmar

OLDSMAR — Hours after being set free from school for spring break on Friday, an East Lake High student was killed trying to cross six-lane Tampa Road about a mile from her home.

Erica Hansen, 15, was near the intersection of East Lake Woodlands Parkway when she stepped into the eastbound path of a pickup shortly before 9:30 p.m., according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Erica, a freshman in East Lake's engineering academy, died about an hour later at Mease-Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor.

The driver of the silver 2004 Dodge Ram was identified as 41-year-old Reinaldo Heredia Jr. of Tampa. Deputies said late Friday that neither speed nor alcohol appeared to be involved in the accident.

Charges have not been filed and the investigation is ongoing, deputies said.

At least two bystanders offered assistance immediately after the crash, said Sgt. Jim Bordner, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. One was a woman who identified herself to police as a nurse and the other was a deputy working an off-duty detail at the nearby AMC 20 movie theater.

J. Paul Wahnish, a teacher in East Lake's engineering program, said that Erica's mother called him early Saturday to tell him about the accident. She told him that several of Erica's classmates were with her when she was injured.

He described Erica as a wonderful girl and a good student.

"She'd just gotten into the academy," Wahnish said. "She was just getting her feet wet."

Yet she showed great promise, according to the school's guidance counselor, who recently helped Erica design her class schedule for 10th grade.

"She was planning to do all honors," said Beverly Elend. "She was one of my brightest students."

Hansen's friend Danielle McKenney declined to speak to a reporter Saturday afternoon, but posted this comment to the St. Petersburg Times’ online account of the accident:

"I love you so much Erica, and I will really miss seeing your smiling face at school. You were such a good friend to me, and made my life so bright. I had so much fun yesterday at school with you, and this news makes me so upset."

This is the second time in two years that an East Lake High student has died as the result of a car accident.

In March 2007, 16-year-old Thomas Justin McPhee-Barry died after the car in which he was riding collided with a vehicle at East Lake Road and Lansbrook Parkway in Palm Harbor.

Times staff writer Andrew DeLong contributed to this report.

East Lake High student Erica Hansen dies after truck hits her in Oldsmar 03/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 9:13pm]
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