Four young men were killed in a high-speed crash that left a BMW wrapped around a freeway sign pole early Wednesday morning southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
The crash was reported at 3:15 a.m., shortly after two vehicles were seen traveling at high speeds northbound on the 710 Freeway at Firestone Boulevard in South Gate. According to California Highway Patrol Officer Kimball, one vehicle ran into a pole and caught on fire while another one ended up along a wall on the right shoulder of the freeway.
The Coroner's office identified the four people killed: Hussein Ahmad Ghasham, 20; Hussein Yasser Saab, 24; Hussein Moussa Ayoub, 22; and Hussein Ali Saleh, 22. All four men were from Southeast Los Angeles County.
Their deaths have devastated the Lebanese American community of Bell Gardens, which straddles the stretch of freeway where the crash occurred.
The four who died, and three others in the second car, were returning from a ceremonial meal in Anaheim, according to Ali Sleiman, PhD, who had served as principal at the Al Hadi School attended by two of the young men. Sleiman said late, large meals are not uncommon during Islam's month-long observance of Ramadan, when the faithful fast from sunrise until sunset.
All four had "bright futures," said Sleiman.
The occupants of the second car ran to the crushed BMW, calling out, but unable to extricate those inside, according to neighbors in nearby homes.
Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol that vehicles were racing just before the crash, but investigators were not ready to conclude that was a factor, according to CHP Sgt. Jason Lopez said.
"We can confidently say that speed played a factor in this collision," Lopez said. "We have significant... skid marks indicating the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed just due to how long those skid marks are."
Broken pieces of the BMW's engine and other debris were found in the freeway-adjacent backyard of the Gonzales family home. The signboard pole was shielded from traffic lanes by a guard rail, but the BMW apparently went right through it. The railing was replaced by a Caltrans crew.
"I don't know what it is about this stretch here," said Mike Gonzales, whose mother still lives in the house alongside the freeway. "But there's been a lot of accidents."
But none as deadly as this.