Friends saddened after teen dies in ATV crash

FHP: 14-year-old wasn't wearing helmet

Published On: Mar 18 2013 05:55:49 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 17 2013 11:10:00 AM EDT
HILLIARD, Fla. -

It's not hard to see Haylee Kruger's pain as she questions why her best friend was killed so tragically.

On Saturday, her buddy Erica Smith died in an all-terrain vehicle crash. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the 14-year-old was not wearing a helmet.

"She always had a smile on her face and just made everybody's day better," Kruger said. "And now she's not here. We just don't really know what to think. We've never had anything like this happen to us."

The accident happened in a wooded area off PNY Haddock Road, north of Hilliard.

Investigators say Erica was camping with her family. Around 8 p.m., Smith and a 13-year-old friend, Chas Harrison, were riding ATVs on a dirt road when investigators say Smith accidentally crashed into the other teen driver.

Both were thrown from the ATVs. Harrison survived. Smith died almost instantly.

"It's tragic," said Megan Skipper, a friend of Smith's.

That's why state ATV laws require anyone younger than 16 years old to wear a helmet and be under adult supervision. Teens at Smith's school in Hilliard say no one they know usually follows those rules.

"I guess we just don't think we need it or anything," Skipper said. "When you're out having fun, you don't really think it's going to affect you in any way, but sometimes it does."

Losing a friend in an accident is an unfortunate lesson that Kruger is now learning from.

"I just hop on with my friends and I don't really think about it, but I think I'll just be more careful now about it all," she said.