Three of five teens killed in Irvine crash died from impact, not fire


Three of five teens killed in a fiery car crash on the 5 Freeway in Irvine over the weekend died from the impact of the crash and not the subsequent fire, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Jennifer Bahena, 14, Jennifer Campos, 15, and Matthew Melo, 15, died from multiple blunt force trauma in the crash about 2:10 a.m. Saturday as they and three others drove back to South Orange County from Knott’s Berry Farm. A cause of death has not been determined for the two others who died — Brandon Moreno, 14, and Alejandro Sotelo, 14.

The driver, Bradley Morales, 16, was the only person in the car who survived the crash.

Authorities said it could take at least a month to determine what caused the wreck.

CHP investigators said they were weighing whether to seek criminal charges against Morales. He did not have a driver’s license or learner’s permit, and had not started the process of obtaining either, said J.J. Antillon, an assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol.


CHP investigators said the car was registered to a family member with the same last name, but authorities did not yet know how they were related.

Morales’ five passengers were killed when the car veered off the freeway, hit a guardrail, climbed an embankment and came to rest on a concrete retaining wall, bursting into flames.

CHP investigators said the investigation of the single-car accident will take extra time because it was so violent and destructive. Authorities said they believed speed was a factor, but did not know how fast the car was traveling or even what lane it had been in before it left the freeway.

Antillon said there was no indication that drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash.

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