Three boys and two girls — all apparently aged about 14 or 15 — were killed when a BMW driven by a 16-year-old boy flew off the Santa Ana (5) Freeway and caught fire at 2:45 a.m. in Irvine Saturday.
“They were burned beyond recognition,” said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.
The 16-year-old driver was rushed to Mission Hospital in serious condition, and he reportedly told rescuers the group had been returning from a late-night trip to Knott’s Berry Farm.
The Los Angeles Times said the names of the victims was circulated at Mission Viejo’s Oso Viejo soccer park, where Saturday’s soccer practice for a team of 14- and 15-year-olds started without three boys today.
“These are good boys,” coach Billy McNicol told The Times. “We are devastated. Just devastated.”
The newspaper said teammates were told the victims are Alex Sotelo and Matthew Melo, both ninth graders at Capistrano Valley High School, and Brandon Moreno, an eighth grader at Carl Hankey Middle School. Both schools are in Mission Viejo, about 8 miles from the crash site.
The names of two girls killed in the wreck were not known, The Times reported. None of the names were officially released as the coroner worked to identify the burned bodies and notify relatives.
The vehicle crash ignited a small brush fire in the interchange between the 5 Freeway and the Route 133 Toll Road. The quarter-acre brush fire was put out within 30 minutes, Concialdi said.
The crash occurred at 2:12 a.m. a CHP dispatcher said.
Video from the scene showed an older BMW, burned, perched atop a retaining wall but beneath the freeway. A crane was used to lift it from its blackened perch.
Three lanes of southbound Interstate 5, and its transition road to north 133, were closed for 10 hours as investigators worked.
California law generally prohibits drivers younger than 17-1/2 from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and also prohibits very-young drivers from carrying passengers younger than 20 years of age.
—City News Service
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