A beloved student, 13, drowns in bathtub

A "horrific accident" at home takes the life of a sweet girl who loved to read, play the piano.

Published April 26, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - She was the kind of student who smiled in class and hugged her teachers.

Amanda Riley, 13, was a polite seventh-grader at Azalea Middle School who read voraciously and performed piano duets.

On Tuesday night, the young girl so full of promise was found unconscious in her bathtub. Her death appears to be a tragic accident, police said.

The teenager came home about 7:30 Tuesday night with her 12-year-old brother and her mother, Lena Riley, 32, a nurse. Riley took a bath, then sat down to watch television with her son.

Amanda went into the bathroom to take a bath, police said. When she didn't come out half an hour later, her brother knocked on the door. Silence. He knocked again and finally went in after he didn't get a response, police said.

He saw his sister unconscious in the bathtub and began screaming. Lena Riley performed CPR on her daughter while her son called 911. Amanda was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but died early Wednesday morning.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said Amanda may have slipped in the bathtub, hit her head and fallen into the bath water unconscious.

"It's a horrific accident," said Detective Joe DeLuca.

The accident left her family stunned and grieving. At Azalea Middle, 60 students received grief counseling. Principal Teresa Anderson said many teachers were shaken. Some of their eyes were still red as they taught classes Wednesday.

"She was admired by a lot of teachers and the students," Anderson said. The faculty "did some grieving together."

The school let out early Wednesday because of a scheduled school improvement day. Teachers and administrators were going to talk about their plan for dealing with a crisis and going through role-model situations, Anderson said. But Amanda's death left everyone too grief-stricken for role-model games.

Able to talk only briefly on Wednesday, Lena Riley called her daughter "the best little girl in the whole world."

Winston Thompson, 34, Lena's boyfriend, said Amanda loved to bake and play the piano. She read everything she could get her hands on and loved art classes, too. Her report cards were filled with A's and compliments from admiring teachers.

Anderson said it was heartbreaking when school officials had to clean out Amanda's locker.

By seventh grade, many teenagers become too jaded for family photographs. Not Amanda. She had photographs of her mother and other relatives, and report cards filled with adoring notes from teachers such as: "I wish we had more students like her."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.