A car was sliced in half after smashing into trees along a Long Island parkway early Monday, killing four teenage friends who had grown up together in Queens, police and friends said.
The accident on the westbound Southern State Parkway happened about 4 a.m., closing the roadway for more than five hours on a quiet Columbus Day holiday. Backpacks and other personal items could be seen inside the wreckage.
The sole survivor of the crash, 17-year-old Joseph Beer, failed to negotiate a curve and he lost control of the late-model Subaru, police said.
Glass, debris and other car parts were strewn along a wooded area adjacent to a nearby neighborhood street, where one neighbor said she was awakened by the sound of a loud explosion.
"Just a loud boom," said Amy Buchanan, who lives on nearby Taylor Road. Her home is about 50 yards from where the vehicle came to a rest.
She said other neighbors told her the only survivor of the crash, Beer, was seen walking alongside the wreckage.
State Police said Beer shouldn't have been behind the wheel in the first place: Beer only had a learner's permit, and according to DMV regulations, should not have been driving been 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a parent, guardian or driving instructor who was over 21 years old.
Beer's friend Alex Maharana said he had just gotten the car.
"You know everybody, when they get their brand-new car, they love being in it," he said. "Maybe they were just taking a cruise."
Friends of the 18-year-old victims said they were childhood pals who went to the same school in Richmond Hill. State Police did not immediately release the names of the four people killed in the crash.
"It's just -- the fact that they're gone now, it's too much," Maharana said at the site of the crash
"I started crying. What else can I do?" said Ravi Lutchman, another friend of the victims as he visited the crash site. "I grew up with them."
Buchanan said the area is the site of frequent accidents. "I've lived here for 10 years and there has been an accident almost in that exact spot every year, but never as one as horrific as this."
The parkway was reopened shortly before 10 a.m.
Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to pursue charges against Beer.