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3 fraternity brothers die in crash

Three Rhode Island fraternity brothers were killed and two others were injured when they were thrown from a speeding rental car on their final day of spring break in Florida, police said.

All five students from Johnson & Wales University were ejected from a new Lincoln Town Car traveling 70 mph in a 35-mph zone on a tree-lined, two-lane road early Friday on this Gulf Coast resort island.

The group from Tau Kappa Epsilon was scheduled to fly out later in the day and be back at the Providence, R.I., school Monday.

Killed were: James J. Smith, 23, of Lindenhurst, N.Y.; Peter D. Scott, 22, West Islip, N.Y.; and Aaron B. Ebbert, 24 of Amherst, N.H., police said.

Edward Smith, James' father, said he only reluctantly allowed his son to take the trip.

"He wanted to do spring break one time," Smith said. "He kinda talked me into it. He said that's part of the college thing. He was happy. He enjoyed life."

Darren Moll, 22, of Farmington, N.Y., one of the survivors, said the group "just decided to come down and get away from everything and relax."

Driver Mark Sterner, 22, of Quakerstown, Pa., lost control on a slight curve, and the car went into a 400-foot skid, police said. The car uprooted a tree, flipped for 60 feet and landed upright against another tree. Two air bags deployed, but none of the occupants were wearing safety belts. No drugs or alcohol were found in the car. A blood sample was taken from Sterner, but the results were not available, said police Chief Richard Plager.

A passing airport shuttle bus driver noticed the wreckage and radioed for help. "I saw a lot of debris on the road," said Apple Transportation driver James Depp. "I looked out to the left, and there was a car sitting in bushes mangled up."

Police found parts of the wreckage scattered along the road. A piece of carpet hung from roadside tree limbs.

Sterner was in serious condition Saturday at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, and Moll was discharged, said hospital spokeswoman Chris Nesheim.

The group stayed in a condominium owned by Scott's parents. All five were due to graduate in May or December.

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