PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hundreds of people came out to John’s Pass on Monday evening to remember the life of 16-year-old Rachel Herring.
She was killed in a boat crash in the Intracoastal Waterway over the weekend.
“It was absolutely incredible to see how big of an impact big or small that Rachel had on basically our community,” friend Brandi Bottger said of the turnout at the vigil.
Friends shared a flier showing a cross that says “We love you Rachel” on the channel marker where the boat crashed.
“She was just a beautiful soul that will literally never be forgotten,” said Alison Burns, one of Herring’s dance instructors.
As the sunset on John’s Pass, Herring’s friends gathered on the bridge and tossed flowers into the water.
The vigil brought together Herring’s dance friends and her friends from Osceola Fundamental High School.
Organizers encouraged everyone to wear green because that was Herring’s favorite color.
“I’ve literally watched Rachel grow up,” Bottger told 8 On Your Side. “I’ve known here since she was seven and we’ve traveled to the same studios when we were little all the way to where we were at West Florida.”
Burns was Herring’s musical theater teacher with the West Florida Dance Company in Largo.
“She was taken too soon and it’s a tragedy and it’s completely devastated the community,” Burns said.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff Office investigation, seven teens were on the boat leaving the Halloween party in the Treasure Island area after midnight.
Deputies said the boat struck a metal mile marker, ejecting everyone on board. Nobody was wearing a life jacket.
Herring is the only one who did not survive and make it to land.
“It was a very hard morning yesterday and it still is today,” Bottger’s mom Christine said.
But the community is trying to cope with this loss by showing how much Herring will be missed.
“She would have known how loved she was,” Bottger said.
8 On Your Side is not naming the 16-year-old boat driver who is charged with vessel homicide.
According to the sheriff’s office, there is no indication he was under the influence, but he was speeding in a no-wake zone.
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