UTAH COUNTY -- A 13-year-old Payson girl sneaked away from home in the middle of the night with three older boys, and all of them paid for it with their lives. They died in an extraordinarily violent single-car crash.
The teenagers who died are all from Utah County. The three boys are from Orem--two age 16 and one 19. They picked up a 13-year-old girl in the middle of the night and went for a wild ride in the mountains.
Their crushed car shows just how violent the crash was. The Chevy Aveo was squeezed a couple of feet narrower by a powerful impact to the passenger side.
It happened on a paved country lane called Emma Park Road, a few miles east of Soldier Summit. At 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, the 16-year-old driver tried to speed around a left turn. Instead, he skidded sideways toward a concrete barrier going at least 95 miles an hour.
"This is a 40-mile-an-hour road. That curve would be quite a ride at 40 miles an hour. You'd have to slow down significantly from that to make that curve," said Utah County Sgt. Spencer Cannon.
The vehicle was traveling at such a high rate of speed it hit a Jersey barrier with tremendous impact and cracked it. The vehicle then wound up on the other side.
"It appears that the vehicle catapulted over the barrier, flipped over maybe one time, landed on the passenger side," Cannon said.
The driver walked or crawled a few feet before dying; the other three died instantly inside the crumpled car.
The victims are 16-year-old Jose Flores, who was the driver, 16-year-old Mauro Lopez, 19-year-old Manuel Gonzalez and 13-year-old Vanessa Estrada.
"What we understand is she left home unbeknownst to her parents, her mother said, around midnight," Cannon said. "No suspicion that she left unwilling, just against her mother's will."
Emma Park Road is an hour's drive from the girl's home.
"Whatever the circumstances are that led young kids to think it's OK to sneak out at this time of night, they never consider that this might be an outcome. And certainly, if they did, we hope they would have acted differently," Cannon said.
Investigators say they found nothing in the wreckage to suggest that alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash. They're blaming it on excessive speed and on kids being out later than they should have been.