ATLANTIC CITY - The words of Allah comforted the hundreds of mourners who gathered Wednesday morning to remember Abiah Jones, the 11-year-old Pleasantville girl who died after falling off a Ferris wheel in Wildwood last Friday.

Imam Umar Salahuddin, who read the Janazah Prayer during the short Muslim service, said each death is tragic and unexpected, but Allah teaches people to look for the good signs in any death.

"When one dies on Friday, this is a good sign," Salahuddin said. "If Allah has given us a good sign, we should take that."

The 30-minute-long service - held at the All Wars Memorial on Adriatic Avenue in Atlantic City - drew a crowd of more than 350 people. Many of whom chose to stand and pay their respects to Jones.

Some of the girl's friends and classmates wore homemade T-shirts with pictures of Jones on the front. The back of each shirt read simply, "RIP. Love you."

Others wore shirts with Jones' name, date of birth and date of death surrounded by a pair of angel wings and a halo.

"She was an angel for real," said one family member who did not identify himself.

During the service, Jaimee Sampson, Jones' godmother, said Jones wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up and had an over-the-top attitude and character that defined her 11 short years of life.

"She always embraced everyone with a big hug and a great big smile," Sampson said.

Jones was riding alone Friday in a gondola on the Giant Wheel at Morey's Mariner's Landing Pier in Wildwood when she fell. She was at the park for its annual "Education Extravaganza" event with other students from PleasanTech Academy Charter School who were rewarded for their high-academic achievement in school. Students on the part-educational, part-recreational trip had earned a grade point average of "B" or higher.

Jones fell about 100 feet at about 12:30 p.m. and the fifth-grader was pronounced dead at 1:14 p.m. at Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House, police said.

The incident is still under investigation by Wildwood Police. The wheel remains closed and toxicology results are pending.

The death has left the Pleasantville and Atlantic City communities tearful for the past five days. The death of the fifth-grader has also left the school community coming together to support each other.

Keith Mills, chairman of the school's board of trustees, was almost at a loss for words when asked how the school community was holding together after losing a "student star."

"We're reeling," he said after shrugging his shoulders for a minute.

He said friends of Jones', as well as academy teachers and administrators, would get through the tragedy with prayer.

"She was what we call a school star, a student star at our school," Mills said. "The brightest, loveliest, most caring and energetic young woman."

Contact Caitlin Dineen:

609-272-7247

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