IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — An early morning crash that killed five Orange County teens and seriously injured a sixth has left young friends with memories and parent with nightmares.
The scene on the 5 Freeway at the Route 133 connector was so chaotic after the 2 a.m. crash, the wreckage so mangled and engulfed by a spreading fire that first responders couldn’t tell exactly what they had or how many lives had been lost.
“It wasn’t until this morning, when the coroner arrived, and then our truck company was able to extricate one body at a time … that we realized there were actually five in the vehicle,” said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.
Witnesses told officers the white four-door BMW went off the road airborne, landing on a retaining wall and bursting into flames. It took fire crews 30 minutes to put out the fire that spread for about a quarter of an acre.
While the California Highway Patrol has not released the names of the three boys and two girls who died the in crash, the boys were students at Capo Valley High School, according to their Mission Viejo soccer coach. The coach identified the boys as Alex Sotelo, Matthew Melo and Brandon Moreno.
A cousin identified the two female victims as Jenny Campos and Jennifer Bahena. Both of the female victims played water polo at Laguna Hills High School.
CHP says the only survivor, the 16-year-old driver who is in serious condition at Mission Hospital, told officers they were headed home from Knott’s Berry Farm after a late-night event. Investigators say it appears speed was a factor in the crash, but it is unclear if the teens were wearing seat belts or if alcohol was involved.
Police have not determined if the 16-year-old has a drivers license, but even if he does, it would be a provisional license that does not allow driving at that hour or having that many passengers under 20 years old.
Meanwhile, parents who don’t even know the teens involved, are shaken.
“I’m horrified and heartsick for the families, for the kids themselves,” said Shireen Naja. “I can’t imagine.”
KCAL9’s Erica Nochlin spoke to Campos family members at a vigil held in her honor.
“I wish I could have said goodbye,” said her sister. “The last time I saw her was 7 p.m. I just told her, have fun. Be with your friends, be safe.”
She was one of scores of people who attended a vigil for Campos and Bahena at Laguna Hills High School.
Campos’ mother and aunt told Nochlin that Jenny was supposed to be home two hours before the crash but she stayed without permission.
Nochlin also reported the driver, identified as Bradley Morales, is in serious but stable condition. He underwent brain surgery Saturday evening.
For people wanting to donate to Campos’ burial, a cousin Diana Vizcarra said her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The family has also started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $5,000.