Five high school underclassmen on their way to watch graduation ceremonies were injured--one critically--in an automobile accident Thursday afternoon.
Horseplay may have been a factor in the accident on westbound Main Street near the Buenaventura Mall, investigators said.
The accident occurred about 3 p.m. as the car full of teens pulled alongside a car carrying other students, investigators said. The youths were on their way to graduation ceremonies at Ventura High School.
“Witnesses said [students in] the two cars were talking back and forth when the driver of one lost control and jumped onto the center median,” said Police Sgt. Gary Adkinson. Adkinson said the car slammed into a palm tree at 45 to 50 mph.
Rescue workers sheared the roof off the compact car to pull the victims out, and all five were taken to two Ventura hospitals. Most of those hurt were Buena High School students, investigators said.
Adkinson could not provide names of the injured. But friends and hospital officials identified the three teens taken to Ventura County Medical Center as James Barton, 16, Danielle Navarro, 15, and Mike Perez, 16.
James was listed in critical condition and Danielle was in stable condition Thursday night. Mike was treated and released. Hospital officials would not discuss James’ injuries.
Officials at Community Memorial Hospital said the two teens there were in stable condition. The officials declined to release the youths’ names.
Ventura High student body President Jake Chinn referred to the accident during the school’s graduation ceremony, saying it was a reminder that youths are not invincible.
Schoolmates waiting for graduation ceremonies to start across town at Buena High expressed shock when told of the accident.
“Incredible, I just talked to Mike this afternoon,” said Spanish classmate Lauren Travis. She said she and Mike, both juniors, talked often. “He is genuinely nice,” said Lauren, 16. “We talked a lot about philosophical things.”
Lauren said Mike is a gifted artist who doodled expert caricatures of teachers and friends during class. “He was one of the best artists that I knew,” she said.
School officials also were concerned by the accident.
“James Barton is a very bright and personable person and I am deeply saddened by this news,” said Don Woodson, James’ counselor.
Meanwhile, friends of Danielle Navarro said the freshman was an outgoing presence on campus.
“She was real nice,” said Nicole Paulson, who attended pre-algebra class with Navarro until she transferred to Ventura High in the middle of the year.
Correspondent Miguel Helft contributed to this report.