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Teen driver in fatal Newport Beach wreck was unlicensed

The 17-year-old high school student who was at the wheel when his car spun out of control in a horrific Memorial Day crash in Newport Beach did not have a valid driver’s license, according to DMV records.

The crash left five teens dead, all high school students from Irvine. Two sisters were among the casualties.

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Police said speed was a contributing factor to the wreck. Investigators didn’t say how fast the teen’s Infiniti was going, but the mayor in the beach city said he was told the car may have been traveling at 100 mph or faster.

The driver of the car, identified as Abdulrahman M. Alyahyan, received a citation in April for violating his provisional license, among other offenses, court records showed.

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The high school junior, records show, was pulled over just blocks from his Irvine home and cited for making a prohibited modification to the exhaust system of his gray 2008 Infiniti — which bore the personalized license plate “KHASONA” — and having tinted windows that obstructed the driver’s view.

Although the citation lists a driver’s license number, a DMV official said that number actually corresponded with Alyahyan’s application for a license.

The single-car crash occurred on a downhill stretch of Jamboree Road where the posted speed limit is 55 mph. It’s less than a mile from the spot where the co-founder of mixed martial arts apparel company TapouT was killed in 2009 when his Ferrari was struck by a Porsche traveling at 100 mph.

Newport Beach city officials said their hands are tied when it comes to slowing down drivers.

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“We can’t simply change the speed limits because we believe they’re unsafe,” Mayor Keith Curry said in a phone message Wednesday. “We have to set them in accordance with state law. Otherwise, we can’t write enforceable tickets.”

Police said they have no plans to beef up enforcement as a result of the accident.

The most recent city surveys indicate that drivers on the six-lane road — which serves as a popular bypass from the 405 Freeway to Pacific Coast Highway — generally stay within the speed limit.

The fact that the road is well maintained and generally straight could be an attraction to lead-footed drivers, said Newport Beach Public Works Director Dave Webb.

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“The pavement’s in good condition — the street’s in great condition. Those large arterials are something, that when there’s not a lot of traffic, can be attractive,” Webb. said. “But that happens everywhere.”

On Wednesday, as students in Irvine returned to campus for the first time since the crash, the magnitude of the death toll was still tough for some to absorb.

“It was horrible,” said Tara Jaff, noting that one of the passengers killed in the crash was her only friend when she moved from San Diego. “Today was like the worst day of school.”

Besides the driver, Abdulrahman, the accident claimed sisters Robin A. Cabrera, 17, a 12th-grader, and Aurora “Christine” Cabrera, 16, a 10th-grader; and 11th-graders Nozad Al Hamawendi and Cecilia D. Zamora, both 17. All attended Irvine High except for Abdulrahman, who went to University High.

Friends said all five were headed to the beach to celebrate the holiday and that a sixth student was to have joined them, but chose not to go at the last minute.

Kevin Morales, 15, who was on his way to Irvine High School, lamented the loss of the two sisters. Christine, the younger of the two, sat near him in class.

“Christine was really nice and kind to other people,” he said, “and Cecilia was the same way. They were always happy.”

He learned of the crash through Instagram and Facebook.

Jaff said she only went to one class before she broke down crying and left to make a poster with other classmates to present to Al Hamawendi’s family.

The poster was red and black with smiley faces. “We love you!” it read.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

jill.cowan@latimes.com

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.


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