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Eckerd student, 18, killed in accident on I-275

Published February 26, 2006

A crash early Saturday on Interstate 275 killed an 18-year-old Eckerd College student, sending a shock through the campus.

"This is just a tremendous tragedy for our community," said James Annarelli, Eckerd's dean of students.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Laura Gorman, a freshman, was riding with 18-year-old Jessica Rasdall on I-275 around 3:30 a.m. Saturday when the Honda Civic they were in veered off the road, hit two small trees and rolled. The car then hit a larger tree. Gorman died at the scene.

Rasdall, who is not an Eckerd student, was in stable condition Saturday evening at Bayfront Medical Center.

No charges were filed but the investigation was continuing, the Highway Patrol said.

Annarelli said the school sent a campus e-mail about the accident after being notified Saturday afternoon.

At 9 p.m., the campus' Griffin Chapel held about 35 people who had come to mourn. Annarelli expected more students to trickle in as they found out.

Counselors will be available to students today and will be on call after today if still needed, said Lisa Mets, the executive assistant to the president at Eckerd College.

The news traveled fast to teachers and former students who knew Gorman at Gibbs High School. Gorman, a student in the school's Beta Program, graduated from Gibbs in 2005. She was remembered for a sense of style and as a model student.

"You wanted every student to be like Laura Gorman," said English teacher Alexis Novak, who taught Gorman in both her freshman and senior years. "She was just a great kid, such a nice person, and she was a sweetheart. For me, it was fun to watch her grow up. This is such a huge heartbreak for all of us."

[Last modified February 26, 2006, 01:48:07]

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