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Two girls killed in Irvine crash identified by friends and family

Two girls killed in Irvine crash identified by friends and family
Five teenagers were killed in a single-vehicle accident on the southbound 5 Freeway in Irvine early Saturday. (KTLA)

Two girls who were among five teenagers killed in a fiery car crash on the 5 Freeway in Irvine early Saturday have been identified by friends and family.

The two female victims were identified as Jenny Campos and Jennifer Bahena, who attended Laguna Hills High School. Both girls played on the school water polo team.

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"I wish I could have said goodbye," Campos' sister told KCAL 9 at a vigil for the two girls at Laguna Hills High School Saturday night. "The last time I saw her was 7 p.m. I just told her, 'Have fun. Be with your friends, be safe.'"

Campos' mother told the news station that Jenny was supposed to be home two hours before the crash but she stayed without permission.

One of the boys killed was 15 and the other two males 14, according to the California Highway Patrol. The ages of the girls were not released.

The 16-year-old driver, whom Channel 9 identified as Bradley Morales,  apparently did not have a license, authorities said. The driver is being treated for injuries at Mission Hospital.

He was the sole survivor of the crash on the southbound side of the 5 Freeway about 2:10 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 younger than 20. CHP investigators have not released a cause for the accident, but they said speed was a factor.

The driver told authorities that 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 car continued 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. The Orange County coroner's office has not officially identified the victims.

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.

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.

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"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.

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