FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two teenagers who were killed in a fiery crash Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale were preparing to graduate from the Pine Crest School.
Dr. Dana Markham, president of Pine Crest School, confirmed Wednesday that the victims were seniors at the school.
Fort Lauderdale police Detective Tracy Figone later identified the victims as Barrett Riley, 18, of Fort Lauderdale, and Edgar Monserratt, 18, of Aventura.
“These two members of our senior class should be finishing their [advanced placement] exams, celebrating things like prom and their upcoming graduation,” Markham said. “Instead, we are mourning their passing. There really are no words to express how deeply this has affected our entire community.”
More than 100 students and parents gathered on the beach at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea late Wednesday to remember Riley and Monserrat. Some lit candles and lanterns. Others embraced in silence.
Figone said the Tesla Model S burst into flames about 7 p.m. after the crash along the 1300 block of Seabreeze Boulevard.
Riley, whom police identified as the driver, and Monserratt were trapped inside the car when it caught fire. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
The backseat passenger was thrown from the car and taken to Broward Health Medical Center. He was identified as Alexander Berry, 18, of Fort Lauderdale. His condition was not disclosed.
“He’s pretty banged up,” friend George Aloia said. “You know, collar bone I think’s broken, some ribs and, yeah, just some stitches and stuff, but it seems like he’s going to be OK.”
Figone said speed is believed to have been a factor in the crash.
Larry Groshart, who witnessed the crash from his front yard, said the driver must have been going 50 to 60 mph.
“That curve is called ‘dead man’s curve,'” Groshart said. “I saw the car coming too fast quietly, but I could hear the tire roar. (It) bounced off the first wall, side-swiped it, then hit that corner and immediately burst into flames and moved that way, burning all the way, and it never stopped burning until it was burned up.”
After the crash, onlookers tried to get Riley and Monserrat out of the burning car. The flames were too intense, and Berry and two other classmates who were following in another car looked on in horror.
“When I heard, like, that they were moving and they were trying to get out and everyone was around them, looking at them and no one could help, and that just crushed me,” Aloia said.
Both teens killed in the crash were college-bound, with Riley preparing to attend Purdue University and Monserratt headed to Babson College.
Markham said all exams scheduled for Wednesday have been canceled because of the fatal crash.
“We are committed to helping our children and our families through this,” Markham said.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday that it is sending a team of four people to investigate the crash.
NTSB officials said they do not believe that autopilot was used at the time of the crash.
“(The) NTSB has a long history of investigating emerging transportation technologies, such as lithium ion battery fires in commercial aviation, as well as a fire involving the lithium ion battery in a Chevrolet Volt,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident.”
Telsa also released a statement late Wednesday, saying the company had not able to retrieve the logs from the vehicle. However, the rate of speed at time of crash indicated that the autopilot feature was not engaged, the statement read.
“The family who owned the car has been a close friend of Tesla for many years, and this hits us particularly hard,” a Telsa representative said. “We are working to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation to the local authorities.”
The company also defended its electric-powered cars, saying high-speed collisions can cause fires in both gas and electric vehicles.
“This doesn’t change how devastating an event like this is for our customer’s family and friends, and our hearts are with them,” the representative said.