4 High School Athletes Killed in Garden State Parkway Crash

Sunday, Aug 21, 2011  |  Updated 12:29 PM EDT
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4 Teen Athletes Killed in NJ Crash

AP

Crews clean up at the scene of a fatal accident, Saturday Aug. 20, 2011, at exit 38 southbound of the Garden State Parkway in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. State police say four people were killed when a sport utility vehicle crashed but it wasn't immediately clear what caused the accident.

A New Jersey shore community is grieving after a highway crash killed four high school football players and injured four others.

The eight teens were all football players at Mainland Regional High School driving together in an SUV to a team meal after a practice Saturday morning. 

The SUV crashed at about 11:45 a.m. The crash in the southbound lanes of the parkway near exit 38A in Egg Harbor Township, created lengthy traffic jams in the area for most of Saturday afternoon.

The driver apparently lost control of the SUV as it went around a crest in the road and came upon heavy traffic, said Sgt. Julian Castellanos, a state police spokesman. The SUV overturned several times, ejecting two passengers, one of whom was struck by a passing car, Castellanos said.

The driver and two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene; a third passenger died at a hospital. Four others were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries believed to be non-life-threatening.

The crash comes just weeks before the school year begins.

Mainland Regional High School Superintendent Thomas Baruffi said Sunday that he hopes the loss will bring the school community closer together -- but that that would not be worth the sacrifice of four young lives.

He said the victims were good students, good athletes and popular.

Two of their teams' scrimmages scheduled for this week have been canceled.

The team's first game is set for Sept. 9, and school starts Sept. 12. In 2008, the team won the South Jersey Group IV sectional championship for the first time in its history, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

Assistant football coach Rich Koeppel told The Press of Atlantic City that counselors would be available to students at the high school and a candlelight vigil would be held Sunday evening.

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