MIDDLETOWN, NJ (CBSNewYork) – An early morning crash left two families grieving in Staten Island.

The violent crash claimed the lives of three people, including two brothers, on the Garden State Parkway Monday.

“Normal family going out for a holiday weekend,” Manny Rivera said. “It’s such a tragedy.

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Police said that just after 5 a.m., a van loaded with seven people veered into the guardrail and flipped over twice, ejecting five people. Three Staten Island teens were killed in the crash: brothers Hlias, 18, and Chrystoph Iliopoulos, 13, and family friend Eric Colligan, 15.

“He followed in my footsteps,” Eric’s uncle, Brian Colligan, said. “He loved having catch with me. I loved him to death.”

Colligan said the group was heading back to Staten Island from a holiday weekend in Atlantic City.

The vehicle was traveling in the express lanes when it was apparently cut off by another vehicle. The SUV lost control, smashed into the median, flipped and rolled into the local lanes.

LISTEN: Steve Sandberg reports Authorities said heavy morning fog may have been a factor.

“The father was driving. An accident is an accident,” Colligan said. “What can you do? I don’t blame those people.”

Dimitrious Iliopoulos and his wife, Stavroula, survived, along with the couple’s daughter, Fotiny, and her fiancé, Vincent Whitaker.

“It’s going to be tough on Stella, and it’s doing to be tough on Jimmy,” Steve Callan, a family friend, said. “You know, they have to come home and deal with the loss they’re going to have, so it’s going to be very, very tough.”

“I think the worst thing to happen to a father or a mother is to lose their kids – the worst thing,” family friend Demetri Gorgiopoulos said.

“They’re just great kids, and they all played together, and it’s very heartbreaking to think they’re not here anymore,” friend Danielle Callan said.

The tragedy played out on the same street, with the victims living just doors apart.

“I’m a proud uncle. That’s what I am right now – a proud uncle,” Colligan said. “Sad, but proud.”

Dimitrios Iliopoulos was listed in fair condition Monday night. His wife, Stavroula, and daughter, Fotiny, were listed in critical condition. Vincent Whitaker was treated and released.

Did you have difficulty driving on the Garden State Parkway this morning? Sound off in our comments section below…

Comments (8)
  1. TPC says:

    This a good ex. of NY liberals having it right. Seatbelt laws save innocent (childrens) lives. This NY family was following NY law… those kids’ be alive today. Do something about this Gov. Christie please..

  2. Teri67 says:

    What an awful thing to say.

  3. LG says:

    It’s always “another vehicle cut me off”. Why not just tell the truth…YOU FELL ASLEEP BEHIND THE WHEEL!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. 2gruesome2b says:

    jj – i worked for 25 years in the somerville, nj area, and got on the gsp at what i thought was middletown. now i learn it is milltown. no wonder i haven’t seen my wife in 25 years…

    1. CK says:

      What the hell are you talking about?

  5. cassie says:

    The first article that I read said that some of the people in this vehicle didn’t have their seatbelts fastened!
    Please always fasten your seatbelts-
    it only takes 5 seconds & it could save your life!!

    1. doc in NJ says:

      years back, a staff writer from Car & Driver wrote “the only way to ensure seat-belt use is to have a single, irremovable 7 inch steel spike (pointy end TOWARDS the driver) at the center of every steering wheel produced.”

      One wonders….

  6. CHP says:

    The accident was in Middletown near Holmdel.

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