SEMINOLE — Four teens were killed and another injured in a crash Friday night that shook a sleepy neighborhood and shocked a tight-knit community.
The five high school students were driving on 86th Avenue N when they collided with another car at 141st Way, according to witnesses and neighbors.
Authorities said the crash happened about 11:15 p.m. Speed was a factor, officials said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Richard Allen Goltl, 42, was driving a 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 westbound on 86th Avenue N when 16-year-old Joseph Scott Ruzecki, driving a 2005 Lexus IS300, approached from behind.
FHP said the accident took place when Ruzecki attempted to pass on the left as Goltl turned left onto 141st Way. After the collision, Ruzicki's vehicle hit a tree and burst into flames.
Killed were Ruzecki, of Seminole; Keith MacCollom, 17, of Seminole; and Nathan S. Richardson, 15, of Pinellas Park. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
LaShawn Allan Smith, 16, of Largo, died while en route to Sun Coast Hospital.
Corey Kenneth LePore, 17, of Seminole, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center with serious injuries.
Only Ruzecki was wearing a seat belt. His passengers were ejected.
Goltl was treated and released, said Assistant Fire Chief George Bessler.
Ruzecki, Richardson, MacCollom and Lepore attend Seminole High School, said Andrea Zahn, a Pinellas County School District spokeswoman. Smith attended Largo High School, she said.
The teens' parents received next-of-kin notification at the accident scene, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, FHP spokesman.
Hundreds of grieving students and parents gathered in the residential neighborhood following the crash.
"It's just a nightmare," said resident Mary Miscuk, whose daughter is a junior at the school. "This doesn't happen in Seminole. I'm looking at all these kids crying ... it's tragic."
When the crowd got too large, authorities opened up the school, less than a mile away. Grief counselors and several chaplains have been called in to help, Bessler said.
"We're placing a lot of resources on this incident," he said.
Students, teachers and parents returned Saturday, gathering in the student parking lot at Seminole High until about 2:30 p.m. in a kind of impromptu wake.
Kids hugged each other and cried as they remembered their friend and tried to make some sense of the accident.
"Crazy, you never saw this coming," said Shannon Brown, a Largo High School graduate who said he was one of LeShawn's best friends. "Not LeShawn."
Stephen Simon, a junior at Dunedin High School and former student at Largo High, said, "This is just a wakeup call for everybody."
Over at the baseball field, team members gathered to weep and remember their "brother," Nate.
"We're going to bounce back. We're never going to lose again," said Scott Robinson, a senior on the team. "He would want us to win and stay together as a team."
Even after mourners left the high school, kids clustered at the scene late into Saturday.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8643.