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SHE WILL BE MISSED

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By Tim McCarthy

The final words school bus driver Diane Driskell heard her great-niece Dezarae Driskell say when she dropped her off Monday after school were 'Bye, Aunt Diane, see you tomorrow.'

But just minutes later, Dezarae was dead, the victim of an apparent accidental shooting after a hunting rifle being used by her teenage stepbrother discharged, according to Kentucky State Police.

'The last thing I saw of her was walking up the hill to her home,' her great-aunt said.

Dezarae Driskell, 16, was pronounced dead at her home, located at 1545 Alford Road near the Mercer County line. A preliminary investigation by the state police indicates that the shooting was accidental and charges against the stepbrother were not likely to be filed.

She was a daughter of Debbie and Gary Driskell and a freshman at Anderson County High School.

An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Frankfort, according to Anderson County Coroner Brian Ritchie.

News of the teenager's death spread quickly among schoolmates Monday evening, with some students creating remembrance links on their MySpace web pages.

Tuesday, students and teachers mourned the loss of the vivacious, outgoing young girl who was active in Future Farmers of America and other school activities.

'It's a big loss. She will be missed,' said friend Kaitlin Jones, who gathered with a group of students across the street from the high school Tuesday afternoon. 'She was fun-loving and outgoing. She was her own person and very strong.'

Jones said Driskell's death cast a noticeable pall over the school throughout the day, with many students mourning her loss.

'People were real quiet in the hallways and a lot of people were crying,' she said. 'Everyone was real depressed; it just wasn't the same.'

Principal Ray Woodyard said Tuesday morning attendance appeared 'a little thin' as students stayed home to cope with the loss. Still, he and other school officials made sure help was available to those who needed it.

'We mobilized our grief crisis team last night,' he said Tuesday morning. 'Our two counselors, a counselor from the middle school, our school psychologist and two teachers trained in grief counseling will be available. We'll call others if needed.'

Tracy Probst, the school's agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, had Driskell in her class.

'It was a very sad mood throughout the school,' Probst said Tuesday after school. 'It was difficult.'

Probst echoed other descriptions of Driskell, saying, 'She was a dedicated, hard-working individual. If she knew what she wanted, she went after it. She was very involved in FFA and participated in several events and activities.'

'She was outgoing, hyper, fun,' said friend Savannah Hicks, 17, before entering school Tuesday morning.

'She could always make you laugh,' added friend Tabitha Perry.

Katie Waford, 14, said she had several classes with Driskell.

'I've known her since second grade at Emma B. Ward (Elementary School),' Waford said. 'She was the most amazing and original personality of anyone you would ever meet. She was so sweet and funny, but [didn't] take any [guff] from anyone. She [took] up for everyone.'

Her great-aunt, Diane Driskell recalled that Dezarae and her stepbrother Jonathan rode her bus home from school most every day.

'She was such an outgoing girl. She was really liked, got good grades. She had something to say all the time. We use to tease her because she would be talking on her cell phone all the time.'

Sach Overall, 17, said, 'I've rode the bus with her for as long as I've been riding the bus. She was outgoing, up for anything, one of the nicest people you'd ever meet.