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‘How Many More People Have To Die?’ Farmingdale Residents Want Traffic Study In Wake Of Fatal Crash

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – It was a heart-wrenching day of funerals and wakes in Farmingdale, Long Island Tuesday, as residents mourned the bright, talented lives cut short by a car crash this past weekend.

Police continued Tuesday to investigate whether speed or alcohol were factors in the violent head-on crash that left five teenagers dead. The crash has renewed calls for safety measures.

As WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, Farmingdale residents and local officials want the state Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic safety study on the busy stretch of Conklin Avenue in Farmingdale where five teens died following a head-on crash early Saturday.

“A traffic light, maybe street cameras. We need something to reduce the speeding,” Mayor Ralph Ekstrand told Xirinachs.

Some Farmingdale residents said they’ve been fighting for safety improvements for years.

“I don’t know what has to be done. How many more people have to die?” resident Monica Berman said. “We’ve been trying to get a light here. As everybody knows, this is a speed strip here, especially at night.”

The state DOT said it will consider feasible traffic improvements along the busy stretch of Conklin Ave.

Meanwhile, as CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the first funeral was held Tuesday for one of the five students killed in the crash – Jesse Romero, 18. Romero was laid to rest following a tear-filled service full of friends and family.

The hearse and cortege passed down Conklin Street, just blocks from where the teens were killed.

The teens were riding in a 2001 Nissan when it crossed over a double yellow line early Saturday and collided with a GMC Suburban. Two people in the sport-utility vehicle were seriously injured.

Police on Monday identified the teenagers as Romero, 18; Tristan Reichle, 17; Cody Talanian, 17; Noah Francis, 15, and Carly Lonborg, 14. A spokesman said the homicide squad had yet to release information on who was driving. Other details about the crash investigation also were not immediately provided.

Romero, Reichle, Francis, and Lonborg all died on impact. Talanian was pronounced dead at Nassau University Medical Center on Sunday night, police said.

“The kids – they are very nice kids, but you know – they’re driving, they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Farmingdale restaurant owner Ubaldo Gennarini.

Gennarini knew some of the victims, who often dined nearby on Main Street. But the night of the crash, they texted their parents to say they were going to another spot on Route 110.

And later, CBS 2 has learned, some were seen behind their high school – off campus – where there was an impromptu party involving beer and marijuana.

One teen told CBS 2 that seven of the party attendees initially crowded into the Nissan that crashed. But it was crammed, and two got out before the others drove away.

Afterward, they were reportedly challenged to a street race.

“There was a distraction of some sort — whether it was, you know, high speed, looking to see, you know, who is coming up next to you or behind you because when you veer into another lane — something is going on with a car full of kids,” said Farmingdale parent Ralph Garraffa.

Police Tuesday afternoon were interviewing the injured couple from the sport-utility vehicle, who were still recovering as of Tuesday, to find out what they remember before the Nissan crossed the center line and hit them head-on.

A source close to the case said police are examining whether the Nissan was bumped during a drag race. The teen driver of another car reportedly heard the crash behind him, returned to the chaos, and called 911.

Some parents in the community wish cars were rigged to slow down when new drivers are behind the wheel.

“They should have some sort of a device on the vehicles that will alert that parents that if the car exceeds a certain amount of speed, it sends a warning,” said Joseph Cruz of Farmingdale.

Police said toxicology tests on the victims are still days away. Meanwhile, another wake and funeral were scheduled for Tuesday night.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)