A 16-year-old boy behind the wheel of a BMW that crashed in Orange County early Saturday, killing five teenage passengers, did not have a license to drive, the California Highway Patrol said.
The teenagers were on the southbound 5 Freeway in Irvine returning home from a night at Knott's Scary Farm, a Halloween-themed event in Buena Park, when the white sedan struck a guardrail, rolled off an embankment and became fully engulfed in flames, investigators said.
Three of the victims were identified by Billy McNicol, the Mission Viejo Soccer Club program director, as Alex Sotelo, Matthew Melo and Brandon Moreno, all between 14 and 15 years old.
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The driver, identified as Bradley Morales, was taken to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. He was recovering after undergoing surgery for injuries to his head, hospital officials said. He’s in serious condition.
The single-car crash was reported just after 2 a.m. just south of Alton Parkway Drive, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Shane Sherwood said. The crash sparked a small brush fire that was extinguished in less than 30 minutes.
Four teens were found dead inside the car and the 16-year-old driver was found outside the car about 50 yards away, investigators said.
The body of another teen was discovered inside the vehicle several hours after the crash, bringing the death toll to five.
The bodies were so badly burned that the Orange County coroner will have to positively identify them through dental records.
What led up to the fatal crash was not immediately known.
OCFA Capt. Steve Concialdi said that the driver told responding firefighters that the group was coming home from Knott's Scary Farm when the crash occurred.
“On Tuesday night, I overheard Matt and Alex talking about Knott’s Scary Farm and how they were going to go Friday night,” said a teammate of the victims, Nick Scapone.
Lanes were closed on the 5 Freeway as authorities investigated the crash.