FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Two Pine Crest School seniors were killed in a fiery crash in Ft. Lauderdale Tuesday evening.
Just before 7 p.m., three teens in a 2014 Tesla Motors Model S were heading south on Seabreeze Boulevard when the driver, 18-year-old Barrett Riley, lost control and slammed into a concrete wall. On impact, the vehicle burst into flames.
“Two people trapped in the front seats,” said one area resident, who asked not to be identified. “Nobody could help because the car was on fire. The fire was so intense that nobody could reach them. There were people trying to get there but it wasn’t happening.”
Riley and 18-year-old Edgar Monserratt, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, died in the crash. Alexander Berry, 18, who was in the back seat, was ejected on impact. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center.
CBS4 News spoke to Riley’s aunt, Pat Riley.
“My nephew was excited to go to Purdue next year’s,” she said. “He was accepted and going to engineering school. He was a quiet wonderful boy. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, he studied. He looked forward to a great life as an engineer.”
Riley and Monserratt were just two weeks away from graduation and were both college-bound, Riley was headed for Purdue, Monserratt was set to go to Babson College.
“Graduation was just coming up in the next week or two,” Riley said. “He would be out of high school and he was all excited to go to Purdue and was excited to start his life as an engineering student.”
Edgar and his family moved to South Florida from Venezuela seven years ago.
He was well known and well liked at Pine Crest, where both teens went to school.
Edgar had a love for business,” said Pine Crest School principal Dr. Dana Markham. “In fact, he was so good at stocks and finance that he would often give investment advice to teachers.”
Students gathered on campus remembering the two, who they say were like brothers.
They also showed up at the scene of the crash, remembering the inseparable friends killed in such a tragic way.
“Those two were like two peas in a pod, they never left each other’s side,” said friend George Aloia. “It’s ironic, they’re together at the end. You never saw them without each other, they always had each other.”
“Pine Crest is a very tight-knit family. Many of our students have been in school together since pre-kindergarten. That is fourteen years of learning and growing together. This tragedy has hit us very hard. We are in shock. Our students, their families, and our faculty are devastated and quite frankly, we don’t know yet how to process this horrible accident,” said Dr. Markham.
Markham said more than a dozen counselors were at the school Wednesday morning to speak with the students.
“I met with our staff this morning and told them that we are all here for one another. Our teachers and staff pride themselves on standing by our student body and it will be no different today and in the weeks to come,” she said. “We are committed to helping our children and our families get through this.”
The crash occurred right near a sharp curve heading southbound off of Fort Lauderdale Beach near the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel.
It happened right in front of Larry Groshart, who lives on the cruve.
“Bystanders went toward the car hoping they could get somebody out but it was hopeless, they couldn’t get within 10 feet of the car,” said Groshart.
Ft. Lauderdale police believe the speed at which the vehicle was traveling was a factor in the crash.
“I saw the car coming too fast, south bound around that curve, side swipe the first wall, hit the second will, the curved wall and immediately burst into flames,” Groshart said. “It was burning all the way across until it hit the lamp post.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said they are sending a team of investigators to look into this accident.
The NTSB doesn’t normally look into car crashes but this particular one was with an electric Tesla, so the agency wants to make sure the car’s technology had nothing to do with the fire.
Their primary focus will be “on emergency response in relation to the electric vehicle battery fire, including fire department activities and towing operations.”
The NTSB said they want to focus on emerging transportation technologies and have seen fires in electric batteries after accidents.
Speaking of Tesla, the company released a statement on Wednesday regarding the crash, which said:
“The family who owned the car has been a close friend of Tesla for many years, and this hits us particularly hard. Everything we have seen thus far indicated a very high-speed collision and that Autopilot was not engaged. Serious high-speed collisions can result in a fire, regardless of the type of car.”
In the meantime, family and friends of the victims came together at a vigil on the beach at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Wednesday night to begin the agonizing process of saying goodbye to these two good young men.
More than 100 people gathered to light candles and join the Pine Crest School community in honoring the lives of the teens.
“It really affects everyone and the way our class was able to come together was really incredible,” said Pine Crest senior Danielle Bejar.