Inland Empire

18-Year-Old Survives After He and Car Full of Friends Allegedly Rammed Off Road

“He just got next to me and I was confused. What is he going to do? I just saw him ram his car into my back. And I whipped into my window and I blacked out and then I remember I woke up on the floor — I don’t remember how I got there. I was shaking,” the teen driver said.

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An 18-year-old who was behind the wheel of a Prius believed to be targeted by a man allegedly angered by a ding-dong ditch prank was left with fractured vertebrae, but he’s one of three teens who survived a crash that claimed the lives of his three other friends.

After three of his friends were killed in a suspected intentional hit-and-run crash, a teenager speaks 4 the First Time. Kim Tobin reported on NBC4 News at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

Sergio Campusano said he keeps playing the night over and over again, thinking of what he could have done differently to keep his friends alive after a man was accused of intentionally ramming them off the road over a prank. 

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Campusano is bandaged and recovering, but is still in disbelief that a night of teenage fun ended in a violent and deadly road rage crash.

“I loved each and every one of them. I still do. And I’m going to really miss them all. They were all a part of me. I don’t know what I’m going to do without them,” he said. 

Sixteen-year-olds Drake Ruiz, Daniel Hawkins, and Jacob Ivascu all died. 

Sunday evening at 10: 28 p.m., moments before the wreck, the group of six teens were out doing a doorbell prank as a dare.

“[He] gets out of the car, knocks the door, rings the doorbell. The door opens and then he runs into the car and we just drive away,”  Campusano said. 

But then he noticed a car tailing him. Police identified that driver as 42-year-old Anurag Chandra. California Highway Patrol said he intentionally rammed the Prius from behind and took off.

Campusano said in the moments before the crash, he tried to get away from the other car -- an Infiniti. But he said they were followed. 

“He just got next to me and I was confused. What is he going to do? I just saw him ram his car into my back. And I whipped into my window and I blacked out and then I remember I woke up on the floor -- I don’t remember how I got there. I was shaking,” Campusano said. 

CHP said witnesses followed the suspect's car after seeing the wreck.

Jacob and Daniel’s younger brothers survived and are still in the hospital.

Doctors released Campusano from the hospital Monday. 

Sergio said he keeps playing the wreck over in his head, wondering if he could've done something differently after a man allegedly chased he and his friends and rammed them off the road. Christine Kim reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Jan. 21, 2020.

The deadly crash unfolded as the boys celebrated Jacob’s birthday through the weekend. 

“I’m going to dedicate portions of my life to them, and work for them and make sure that what happened wasn’t for granted,” Campusano said.  

Campusano said all six boys attended church earlier that Sunday morning. 

His pastor’s sermon detailed how important it is not to take every day for granted and how life is short.

He learned how true that is that very same night.

Campusano said his friends would want him to forgive the suspected driver. He said he wants justice, but will forgive him. 

That's also what Debbie Ruiz, Drake’s mother, said. 

“It’s incredibly difficult to just say I forgive and I’ve seen the opposite. It’s worse. So somehow, some way, forgiveness has to be a part of what happens,” she said. 

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“I’m glad that they’re together. That if they had to go, I’m glad they had to go together.”

Court documents obtained by NBCLA revealed the suspect, Chandra, was scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 31 for domestic violence related charges against a child and spouse or partner back in September.

As for Ruiz, she said she hopes amid loss and death, that the public can remember the teens with a positive message.

“The message I want to get out to people is love people every second you have with them because you don’t know when the last second is going to be,” she said. “We would have never imagined this happening to our kids.”

A GoFundMe that raised nearly $20,000 has been created to help the family. You can see it here.

Three teens are dead, three were injured and one man was arrested after a hit-and-run crash. Hetty Chang reported on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.
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