Two teens were killed and a third injured when their car veered off the road and plunged into the Delaware River in Pohatcong, N.J. as they drove home from a night-fishing trip, police said Wednesday.
The driver of the car, Luke Bebe, 18, of Alpha, N.J., survived the crash. Jonathan Gercie, 19, and Tanner Sember, 14, also of Alpha, were killed when their 2004 Dodge Dakota went down the embankment and sank into the river, authorities said.
The driver, who was taken to St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa. for broken vertebrae and other injuries, told authorities that he swerved to avoid a collision with another car, a green vehicle possibly with Jersey plates, on River Road.
Bebe was able to climb out of the vehicle and floated a short distance down the river before climbing up the embankment and calling for help. The two other teens were pronounced dead on the scene after the vehicle was pulled from the water.
"That's a heroic effort, in my mind, that he was able to do that, to attempt to help his friends who were unfortunately in the vehicle still," said Pohatcong Police Detective Sgt. Scott Robb.
River Road is barely wider than one lane. Even if there was another car, police said on such a narrow road in the darkness of the night, the other driver may done nothing wrong and may not have even realized that the pickup ran off the road and into the river.
Sember's grandmother, Lucille Saba, who was driven to the scene of the crash, teared up as she called her grandson "just a great, great kid."
"He loved fishing, hunting, four-wheeling," she said.
Friends gathered outside the home of Sember, whose 15th birthday was approaching at the end of the month, devastated by the news.
"He was a very good boy, a nice kid," said family friend Barry Suidan. "Not a wise guy or nothing, a decent person."