Star Torrance High School Baseball Player, 16, Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash

"He was so genuine, just so real, one of the most respected young men that I've ever been around.”

A 16-year-old star athlete who many say had a promising future was killed in a tragic car crash Tuesday in Torrance that also left his father seriously injured.

The crash occurred about 10 p.m. at Crenshaw Boulevard and Crest Road, according to the Torrance Police Department.

Relatives and friends identified the teen as Jesse Esphorst Jr., who died at a hospital. Many returned to the scene of the crash Wednesday night to remember Esphorst.

"I feel a void in my heart," said Julie Esphorst, his mother. "I know my son is not coming home."

Esphorst was riding in a van that was being driven by his 47-year-old father, also named Jesse Esphorst, who was hospitalized in serious condition.

The teen was a shortstop on the South High School baseball team. Counselors were made available for students and faculty learning about Jesse's death.

School principal Scott McDowell said Esphorst had a promising future and many expected him to play professional baseball.

"He was on the Babe Ruth team this summer that won the Babe Ruth World Series," said McDowell. "In this tournament, where they were the top team in the nation, he was named most outstanding player as a freshman."

Baseball coach Grady Sain said that Jesse and his father were on their way home from dinner at his grandmother's when the crash occurred.

"Just an incredibly special kid," Sain said. "Everybody would tell you that he was an incredibly talented baseball player and everybody would tell you that he was just an incredible person. He was so genuine, just so real, one of the most respected young men that I've ever been around."

Jesse's inspiration was his younger brother Cody, who has battled cancer.

"He always told me, 'If Cody can beat cancer twice, I can do anything,'" Julie Esphorst said. "And he did."

The 16-year-old was a passenger in a 2000 Toyota Sienna van when two other vehicles ran a red light and crashed into it, police said.

According to police, a silver 2004 Audi A6, and a black 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 were both going northbound on Crenshaw Boulevard when they ran the red light and crashed into the van, which was being turned left from southbound Crenshaw Boulevard to eastbound Crest Road.

"The initial investigations indicate the driver of the Audi was involved in a minor collision in Rancho Palos Verdes with the Mercedes-Benz and fled the scene ... and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 was following the Audi when both vehicles ran the red signal for northbound Crenshaw Boulevard at Crest Road and both collided with the Toyota Sienna van," according to police.

"After the collision, the Audi fled northbound on Crenshaw and the driver of the Mercedes GLK350 stayed at the scene," police said. "The Audi was located a short time later near the scene unoccupied."

The driver of the Mercedes, 21-year old Tung Ming of Rancho Palos Verdes, was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, according to police.

Ming was released on $50,000 bail, according to the sheriff's department.

Another driver was being sought in connection with the crash.

Anyone with information on the case was urged to call police at (310) 618-5557.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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