Irvine crash: Teen driver didn't have license or permit

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- The CHP said Monday that a 16-year-old driver behind the wheel of a fiery crash that left five teenagers dead in Irvine did not have a license or permit. The teen had not even started the process of obtaining a license, according to investigators.

The crash occurred on the southbound 5 Freeway between Sand Canyon Avenue and Alton Parkway around 2:15 a.m. Saturday. Orange County fire officials say the teens were returning home from Knott's Scary Farm when their car drifted off the road for an unknown reason, hit a guardrail and burst into flames.

Responding firefighters found the four-door, 1995 BMW sedan resting on top of a 20-foot cement barrier on the side of the freeway.

Bradley Morales, the teen driver, was the lone survivor. He remains in serious but stable condition at Mission Hospital after undergoing brain surgery.

All five passengers were killed. They were identified as Matthew Melo, Alex Sotelo, Brandon Moreno, Jenny Campos and Jenny Bahena.

The tragedy brought thousands out to a vigil Sunday night. Sotelo and Melo were ninth-graders at Capistrano Valley High School and played on the same soccer team. Moreno was an eighth-grader at Carl Hankey Middle School, according to Billy McNicol, the program director for Mission Viejo Soccer Club.

"I just really wish I could see them again just one more time," said Marc Tagle, a student.

Campos, 15, of Aliso Viejo, and Bahena both attended Laguna Hills High School and were players on the water polo team.

Grief counselors were on hand Monday as students returned to school. A spokeswoman for the Capistrano Unified School District says another vigil is planned for students and the community at Carl Hankey school on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The CHP says it's still trying to figure out who gave permission to the teen to drive the car, which is registered to someone else.

The Campos family has set up a fund for Campos' funeral expenses.

The Bahena family has also set up a fund for Bahena's funeral expenses.

It remains unclear what caused the collision, but skid marks on the freeway and the distance the car traveled after hitting a guardrail suggest speed possibly played a role. Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be involved. Officials say it's too early in the investigation to know if criminal charges will be filed in the case.

"The most important thing is to gather the facts of what occurred that night. Whatever happens later on has yet to be determined. We're very early in the investigation and I think it's only fair that we conduct a fair, thorough investigation," said CHP Border Division Assistant Chief John Antillon.

Authorities are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact investigators at the CHP's Santa Ana office.

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