Accused Street Racers Clocked At 145 MPH

By Greg Cergol
|  Friday, Mar 4, 2011  |  Updated 7:39 AM EDT
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Two drivers under arrest.

Two drivers under arrest.

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A Long Island mom and her daughter were heading home from Manhattan when they came upon a scary sight -- a car engulfed in flames at a gas station in Islandia.

"I was like, is there somebody in there? I hoped everybody was okay," said Lauren Laurenti, 16.  "It was really that bad."

Laurenti and her mom Denise called 911 and then videotaped the scene. 

What they saw, according to Suffolk investigators, was the end of a wild street race on the Long Island Expressway.  Radar from a highway patrol vehicle had clocked the cars traveling at 145 mph, said Chief Michael Sharkey.

Moments later, the two cars veered off the westbound LIE and the drivers lost control, Sharkey said.

One car, a 2005 Dodge Neon, smashed into a pump at the gas station on the LIE's service road.  A surveillance camera showed the car bursting into flames and three people inside scrambling to safety.  

The second car, a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer, smashed into a fence across the street.  

Only one of the five people in the two cars was hurt.  The unidentified passenger suffered a concussion.  

"They are very lucky they didn't kill themselves, one of their passengers or an innocent bystander," said Sharkey. 

"I don't care what kind of a driver you are.  No one can control a car going 145 miles per hour."

Both drivers have been arrested and charged with reckless driving and reckless endangerment, among other things.

Jeffrey Browne, 21, and Joseph Skarka, 20,  both pleaded not guilty.  A judge ordered them held on $75,000 bail and suspended their driver's licenses.

Outside court in Central Islip, Browne's father called his son a "great kid."

"What did you do when you were 21?" asked the elder Browne.  "Sit around and do nothing?"

As she looked back on her night, Denise Laurenti expressed hope that her daughter, who is about to start learning how to drive, had learned an important lesson.

"Kids don't always think," Laurenti said.

 "They don't know what they're doing and how the consequences can affect their families and their lives."

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