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    Students remember newfound friend

    At a memorial service Monday, teenagers pay tribute to Jeremy Hammond, who was killed in an accident Thursday.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Kelly Wright says she always wears a seat belt.

    But a friend of hers never did, and that may have cost him his life.

    Jeremy Hammond, 19, was killed Thursday after he was thrown from the truck he was driving. The Seminole High School senior was fleeing the scene of a fender-bender on Seminole Boulevard when he ran a red light and clipped another vehicle. A witness said the truck rolled about seven times before coming to a stop.

    Police say Hammond may have survived the crash, had he worn a seat belt.

    "This shows how much it can save your life," said Wright, a senior at Seminole High.

    She was one of about 75 Seminole High students who attended a memorial service for Hammond on Monday at Church by the Sea in Madeira Beach. Many of the students wore yellow -- Hammond's favorite color. And some had handmade buttons with Hammond's name on them pinned to their shirts.

    Wright, 17, and friend Regina Mullins, 16, say Hammond's death reinforces the importance of safe driving.

    "I don't go anywhere unless people have their seat belts on," Wright said.

    Mullins, who had planned on going to the prom with Hammond, quickly added: "Never run red lights."

    At Monday's memorial, Hammond was remembered as fast to make friends. He planned to attend the University of South Florida and become a chiropractor.

    In morning announcements Monday, principal Richard Duncan replaced the pledge of allegiance with a moment of silence for Hammond. He asked students to keep Hammond's family and friends in their thoughts.

    Throughout the day, students visited counselors in the media center. Some wondered why Hammond wasn't wearing a seat belt.

    "Obviously, the kids were concerned about that," said guidance counselor Julie Schletter.

    Other students mourned Hammond's death on Friday by putting a cross and flowers at the site of the crash. On Saturday, Seminole High freshmen Nicole Mason and Nicole Newman placed a floral decoration at the memorial.

    Hammond had been at Seminole High since August. His mother, Kim Hammond, moved from Ohio to Seminole with her son and two daughters.

    Hammond was well-liked by his peers. "He was great to hang out with," Wright said. "He had a great personality."

    And he liked to shop at the mall, she added.

    Mullins said she had made plans with Hammond for Thursday night. A group of friends were going to teen night at Storman's Palace on Ulmerton Road.

    "This makes you realize that things can happen so quickly -- in an instant," Mullins said.

    - Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at byrne@sptimes.com.

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