NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.
(AP) — Tamer Mosallam was supposed to get picked up on Memorial Day for a trip to the beach with friends, but his father had other ideas and the carload of teens left him behind.
It would be the last time the 17-year-old would see his friends alive. The five teens — two boys and three girls — died late Monday afternoon in a fiery wreck that left the car they were riding in split in two and engulfed in flames. Among the victims were two of Mosallam's closest friends and a pair of sisters who had performed in a high school dance extravaganza over the holiday weekend.
"I was supposed to be with them in the car, that's why there were three girls," Mosallam said, explaining that he was to have been the third boy for a three-way double date. "They came to my house but my dad wouldn't let me go out because I was studying for a test."
A visibly shaken Mosallam and several dozen other students from Irvine Unified School District, where all the victims were enrolled, gathered outside Irvine High School on Tuesday to try to make sense of the tragedy.
Police said speed was a factor in the single-car wreck on a busy, six-lane surface street and the investigation was ongoing.
The driver was identified as 17-year-old Abdulrahman Alyahyan, a senior at University High School.
The passengers included 17-year-old Robin Cabrera, a senior at Irvine High, and her 16-year-old sister Aurora, a sophomore at the same school.
Also killed in the Monday crash were Cecilia Zamora and Nozad Al Hamawendi, both 17-year-old juniors at Irvine High.
Friends who gathered Tuesday outside Irvine High said the five were headed to the beach for a fun Memorial Day when the tragedy unfolded on a busy thoroughfare that connects Orange County's interior network of freeways with the famed Pacific Coast Highway and its beaches.
Authorities said the wreck was one of the worst in Newport Beach in recent memory and left two of the victims' bodies so damaged the coroner had to rely on fingerprints to identify them. The car hit a tree in the median, shearing it of its bark and leaving deep gouges in the trunk.more