SPRING HILL — People couldn't help but be drawn to 20-year-old Nicole Marie Brennan.
A free spirit with a healthy sense of humor and a big, inviting smile, she accepted easily, judged little and genuinely wanted to improve the lives around her.
"She loved you for you," said her mother, Monika Brennan. "She always tried to make people feel better about themselves."
And that's one of the things family and friends will miss most.
Brennan, a 2012 graduate of Nature Coast Technical High School, was killed early Sunday after being struck by two hit-and-run drivers in Orlando, where she was working on an associate's degree.
The crash happened shortly after 1:30 a.m. on State Road 50 on the east side of Orlando, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Troopers said Brennan of Spring Hill had just stepped from her vehicle after being involved in a two-car crash and was standing on the solid white line dividing the left-turn lane and the left travel lane of eastbound SR 50. A pickup driven by James Robert Alpaugh of Titusville struck her. An unidentified vehicle, believed to be a red minivan, then hit her and dragged her into the intersection.
Alpaugh returned about 5 a.m. after initially driving away and was arrested on a charge of leaving the scene of a crash. Troopers on Monday were still looking for the driver of the second vehicle.
In the meantime, friends and family members struggled with how such a sudden and senseless tragedy could happen to such a beautiful person. A candlelight vigil was organized for Monday night in her honor at Nature Coast, where she was remembered as a popular student.
Brennan competed in track and field and was a four-year starter and an all-county forward for the Nature Coast soccer team.
"She was a very, very hard worker when it came to soccer," said her coach, Lisa Masserio. "She was extremely dedicated to the team."
Masserio, who helped organize the vigil, said she received numerous phone calls from former players after news broke about Brennan's death.
"We're all having a hard time making sense of the whole thing," she said. "She was just a very beautiful person."
Ian Wald, who teaches digital video production at Nature Coast, said Brennan was one of his favorite students. She came in to visit him about six months ago, picking up a video she had made for her mother, he said.
"She just really cared about everyone," Wald said.
Brennan was finishing up her associate's degree at Valencia College in Orlando and would have graduated at the end of the summer, according to school officials. Her mother said Brennan was planning to study business at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Monika Brennan said her daughter could find humor in everything.
That's part of what drew her to becoming the mascot at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics and why she loved recording goofy videos with her brother, Lucas Brennan, 23.
"She loved to clown around," her mom said.