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Girl's death staggers high school

The mood is somber at Wesley Chapel on Monday as students cope with a 15-year-old classmate's death in a car accident Friday afternoon.

Students at Wesley Chapel High have experienced a number of firsts in the school's inaugural year.

Until now, it's been a wave of happy milestones. First touchdown. First wins in every sport. First homecoming.

But on Friday, they lost a beloved classmate, and now the tight-knit student body is dealing with its first tragedy.

Sophomore Amy Michelle Eifel, 15, was killed late Friday afternoon in a car accident on State Road 54, just east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

During the weekend, grieving friends struggled to cope with Amy's death. They came by the dozens to her family's house to offer condolences. Some just sat in the driveway and remembered their friend's smile and bubbly personality.

On Saturday night, about 100 friends gathered at the scene of the crash for a candlelight vigil. They left a makeshift shrine of flowers, pictures, balloons, a football jersey and a small wooden cross.

"She was a good person and she had a good heart," said Wesley Chapel junior Deeanna Dixon, one of 20 or so students who visited the shrine after school Monday.

The mood at the school Monday was somber, principal Andy Frelick said, and a crisis team was there to counsel students struggling to accept Amy's death.

"This is kind of a shock to all of us," Frelick said. "I think it's probably the first time many of our students have had to deal with something like this."

Frelick remembered Amy as a "popular student" and an "outgoing person" with a positive outlook.

Her father, Brian Eifel, said Amy was "the greatest thing in my life."

"She was so carefree," he said. "Nothing ever bothered her."

He said Amy doted on her pet cat, Muffin, and loved animals. She also went to church with friends and was constantly on the telephone, he said.

The family moved to Pasco County four years ago from Town 'N Country to give Amy and her older sister, 17-year-old Andrea, a more wholesome upbringing, Brian Eifel said.

Amy, he said, "absolutely loved it here," and she made friends easily.

"She wasn't into drugs or alcohol," he said. "I never had any disciplinary problems with her."

He said Amy hadn't decided what she wanted to do with her life.

"She was still too young to focus on her life," her father said. "She was too busy being a kid and having fun."

Just before 6 p.m. Friday, Amy was a passenger in a blue Dodge Avenger that was westbound on SR 54 and trying to turn left across heavy traffic into Hollybrook Plaza. The Avenger was struck in the passenger side by an eastbound, white Toyota pickup truck that could not avoid a collision, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Amy was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Avenger, 16-year-old Gloria Bryan, was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. The Toyota's driver, Stephen Reese, also was airlifted. Bryan and Reese are recovering.

The highway patrol still is investigating the accident and had not filed any charges as of late Monday.

Brian Eifel said he still is too numb to describe the pain of his daughter's death.

"My mind is barely even working," he said. "She was just such a happy, happy kid."

Visitation will be tonight at Oakley Funeral Home, 36327 SR 54 in Zephyrhills, from 6 to 8 p.m. A memorial service is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Pasco County Humane Society.

_ Times photographer Dan McDuffie contributed to this report.