Torrance high school baseball player killed in car crash

TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- A 16-year-old baseball player at South High School in Torrance was killed in a three-car crash.

Hours before the tragic wreck, Jesse Esphorst Jr. had just hit a two-run homerun in his team's 13-3 victory at Hawthorne High School.

The teen's 47-year-old father, also named Jesse Esphorst, was hospitalized in serious condition.

The two were traveling in a 2000 Toyota Sienna van, attempting to take a left turn from southbound Crenshaw Boulevard onto eastbound Crest Road shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

That's when a silver 2004 Audi A6 and a black 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 both ran the red light at that same intersection and crashed into the van.

Torrance police said the Audi and the Mercedes-Benz were involved in a minor crash in Rancho Palos Verdes earlier on. The Audi fled the scene northbound on Crenshaw Boulevard with the Mercedes-Benz following close behind when they both slammed into the van carrying the father and son.

Following the three-car crash, the Audi again fled the scene, but police located the vehicle a short time later nearby unoccupied. The driver remains at large.

The driver of the Mercedes-Benz, described by police as a 21-year-old male, remained at the scene. He was treated by firefighter personnel and transported to an area hospital to be examined. After being released from the hospital, he was arrested by Torrance police for vehicular manslaughter.

Jesse Esphorst Jr., his younger brother Cody and their father are seen at the Babe Ruth World Series in 2016.

Jesse Esphorst Jr., his younger brother Cody and their father are seen at the Babe Ruth World Series in 2016.

A growing memorial that included flowers and photos were left at the scene of the crash.

Jesse, a sophomore shortstop and leadoff hitter, started on South High's varsity team as a freshman, was on the Torrance 15-year-old All-Star team that won the Babe Ruth World Series last summer, and was named the World Series' Most Outstanding Player, the Breeze reported.

"His future in the game of baseball was incredibly bright," South High baseball coach Grady Sain told the newspaper. "He was no doubt going to be a college ballplayer and we thought by his senior year he was going to get drafted."

Renee Yamashiro, the mother of one of Jesse's teammates, said the Esphorsts are a close-knit family.

"Great family. They have a son, Cody. It was his birthday yesterday. He fought cancer for so many years, remission, doing good. But they couldn't tell him last night, so I think they gave him the word today," she said.

A private vigil took place at 3 p.m. Wednesday on the Sough High baseball field in honor of Jesse. Grief counselors were also available on the campus to help students and staff cope with the loss.

Many students who knew or played with Jesse said it had been a tough day on campus.

"It was just crazy. Today I was crying a lot and I feel like I'm all cried out," Tyron Dillon said.
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