Driver in crash that killed 5 didn't have license, authorities say

Driver in crash that killed 5 didn't have license, authorities say
Five teenagers were killed in a single-vehicle accident on the southbound 5 Freeway in Irvine early Saturday. (KTLA)

The 16-year-old male driver of a vehicle that crashed on the southbound 5 Freeway in Irvine early Saturday and killed five teenagers apparently did not have a license, authorities said.

The unidentified teenager was the sole survivor of the crash that occurred about 2:12 a.m. near the 133 interchange, according to the California Highway Patrol.


"We ran his name and date of birth his parents gave us and there was no record of him having a license," said CHP Officer Florentino Olivera.

In California, motorists younger than 17 1/2 generally are also prohibited from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and aren't allowed to have passengers under 20 years old. CHP investigators have not released a cause for the accident, but they said speed was a factor.

The teenagers were heading home after spending the evening at Knott's Scary Farm in nearby Buena Park when the crash occurred.

The white 1995 BMW sedan veered off the roadway and hit a guardrail, CHP officials said. Due to the speed, the vehicle continued in a southerly direction up an embankment and came to rest on a concrete retaining wall, where it became engulfed in flames.

That touched off a small brush fire around the vehicle, which Orange County firefighters extinguished at 2:20 a.m., the CHP said. Five bodies were found inside the vehicle and the driver was found outside, officials said.

Orange County coroner's officials have not identified the victims or the driver.

But three of the male victims played on a team with the Mission Viejo Soccer Club and their coach, Billy McNicol, and two of the boys' teammates said they have been told that the males killed in the car were Alex Sotelo, Matthew Melo and Brandon Moreno. Alex and Matthew were ninth-graders at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, and Brandon was in eighth grade at Carl Hankey Middle School in Mission Viejo.

The identities of the dead females and the male driver were not available.

When Alex, Matthew and Brandon didn't show up for their 8 a.m. soccer match in Mission Viejo on Saturday, McNicol said he didn't think much of it.

It wasn't unusual for some of the elite team's members, all 14- and 15-year-olds, to arrive a little late. But when the game ended and his three players still hadn't arrived, McNicol grew alarmed.

Then he got a call from a relative of one of the boys: All three, along with two girls, had died in the crash.

Nicholas Scarpone, team co-captain, and his father, Larry, had left the park when McNicol called to ask them to return.

"Everyone was just crying," said Nicholas, a ninth-grader at San Clemente High School. Nicholas said he, Matthew and Alex were best friends who bonded over soccer.

"They were just really close friends," Nicholas said, "and it's sad to have them go this way." He said he had only recently met Brandon.


"It feels so unreal and hasn't hit me that they're gone," said Jorge Menchaca, a ninth-grader from San Juan Hills High School and another team co-captain. "I can't believe I won't see them anymore."

Jorge said he and Alex had "pretty much been friends since way back."

"He always showed up with such great attitude," Jorge said. "He had a lot of passion for the game."

McNicol, their coach, said the youths come from modest backgrounds and have always been respectful toward their teammates, soccer officials and him.

Alex was the team's leading goal scorer and an outgoing presence, the coach said. Brandon was new but worked hard to make it to the more advanced squad, he said.

McNicol, a Scottish native, said that as a former pro-level coach for the Los Angeles Galaxy he recognizes talent and saw it in "Matt," whom he compared to a son.

"He's a little small," he said. "But he played so big."

Jailene Garcia, 15, a freshman at Capistrano Valley High School, said she's known Matthew and Brandon since third grade. She described them as kind, caring boys who were always making each other laugh and dreamed of playing college soccer together.

"They had really loving souls," she said.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Sunday night at Capistrano Valley High.