MOUNT SINAI, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police are trying to determine the final moments of a single-car crash that claimed three young lives on Monday night.
The SUV left Mount Sinai-Coram Road, crashed into a utility pole and then caught on fire. On Tuesday, a North Shore community was in mourning, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“It looked like a bomb blew up. That’s how bad it was,” Mount Sinai resident Laura Howe said.
Howe was among her neighbors startled by a loud crash and then chilling screams.
“I opened the window automatically and I could hear them screaming, asking for help. ‘Help! Help!'” Howe said.
Howe and others said they tried, but could not get close enough to help.
“The blaze was so severe. I have never seen a blaze of that kind. It simply engulfed the whole SUV,” witness Dr. Mohamed Sameen said.
Trapped in the overturned and burning SUV were three women ages 23-25, police said. Devastated friends said all three were graduates of Mount Sinai High School, including Casi Fricker, who was identified by a relative. All of the remains have yet to be identified by police.
“I’m emotional. I’m really sad. I didn’t think any of this would have happened. Life is just super precious,” said Taylor Jaffee, a friend of the victims.
On Tuesday, Mount Sinai-Coram Road was still closed, as Suffolk County police tried to determine why the vehicle swerved and struck the utility pole.
“This vehicle immediately overturned. The utility pole collapsed, covering the car in electrical wires,” Det. Lt. David Teufel said.
Police said a driver behind the women, a retired FDNY member, couldn’t get beyond the exploded wires and transformers.
“He attempted everything he could possibly do to help the girls out in the car, but, tragically, was unable to help,” Teufel said.
Although neighbors complain of speeding on the road, which has a speed limit of 40 mph, police said there is no evidence of excessive speed, erratic driving, drugs or alcohol. Deer often cross the stretch of the road in question and that remains a possible reason for the accident.
But to heartbroken friends, no explanation matters.
“We always had fun together. There was nothing but laugh and smiles. We had a big friend group and all my friends are super sad right now,” Jaffee said.
Fricker’s stepfather, who was too distraught to speak on camera, described her as sweet, smart girl who was doing the right things — working hard at a local brewery and loving her family.
Police said they will identify all of the victims when they have notified all of the next of kin and matched dental records with the remains.