It was a graduation trip out of a horror movie for four Perris High School seniors who died this week from injuries suffered in a car crash on the way to the beach, according to an article in the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Officials say speed and alcohol were definitely factors that contributed to the crash. Family and friends of the four teenagers are struggling to accept eyewitness accounts of the boys tearing down the road at 90 to 100 mph and waving beer cans out the window, the newspaper article said.
The newspaper identified the four students who died as: Jose Espinoza, 18; Pablo “Paul Ruiz”, 18; Javier Aguayo, 17; and Anthony O’Neil, 17. All the boys, except for Espinoza, died on scene after their Acura Integra careened off I-15 in Escondido and rammed into a tree. Right before they went off the road, the teens had passed a full school bus that was headed to the beach, CHP officials told the newspaper. Perris school district officials say the students should have been on one of those buses and not in their own vehicle because it was a school-sponsored trip to Mission Beach.
According to eyewitness reports, another black vehicle with tinted windows was racing with the Acura the teens were in. Officials are also looking into how the students obtained the alcohol. Friends and neighbors refused to believe that the boys were drinking or showing off their beer cans. Teachers described all four boys as outgoing.
Apparently, this is not the first such tragedy at the high school. In April 2005, another crash killed four 18-year-old Perris high school students when the driver ran a stop sign and was broadsided by another car. Martha Mamolejo, mother of Damian Mamolejo, who died in the crash, summarizes the unending pain a parent feels when a child is taken away in such a senseless manner:
“It’s like being in labor for the rest of your life. It’s a labor that you feel in the heart.”
Street-racing has become a scourge for motorists in Orange County and the rest of Southern California. Officials are doing all they can to teach young people the perils of drunk driving, especially through MADD. Those programs aim to avoid tragedies exactly like this one. Education is the key and as far as creating awareness, I’d say, more is less. Our teenagers must be constantly bombarded with this information in such a way that they realize it’s not cool to drink and drive because they could kill someone else or end their own lives. Speed is lethal in itself, but when it mixes with alcohol, disaster is almost a certainty.