Three teenagers in a stolen car died when the vehicle crashed into a tree and caught fire late Thursday after a chase, authorities said. Police say the female and two males, all 16, are all from Modesto.
The Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office identified the teens as Mariah Boucher, Kameron Jackson and Donovan King. Boucher was driving, and Jackson and King were passengers, authorities said.
A police officer in central Modesto tried to stop the car after seeing the driver violate a vehicle code at 11:43 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. They did not indicate the nature of the violation.
“The driver fled, refusing to stop,” Modesto police Sgt. David Chamberlain said. “The officer initiated a pursuit.”
During the chase, the officer managed to get the license plate number of the car, a Nissan Altima. Dispatchers reported they had a call holding, reporting the car stolen.
“A minute, a minute and a half into the pursuit, after learning the car was stolen, the officer terminated the pursuit,” Chamberlain said. “He felt the driver was driving too dangerously and the officer didn’t want to create a danger for the public.”
A few minutes later, the officer started looking for the car again. “What frequently happens is they will make a few turns, then dump the car and run,” Chamberlain said.
The officer found the car at Miller and Oakshire avenues, near Yosemite and El Vista avenues. It had crashed into a tree and caught fire.
“The passenger compartment was filled with smoke,” Chamberlain said. The officer managed to get the right front passenger out of the car. He had suffered severe injuries.
As the first officer began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the passenger, more officers arrived and tried to get the other passenger and driver out of the car, authorities said.
“They used fire extinguishers and hoses from neighbors to put out the fire, and broke some windows,” Chamberlain said. They managed to get the other passenger out, but the driver remained trapped.
Firefighters arrived and were able to get the driver out of the car, he said.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The two passengers were taken to an area hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
“We’re saddened by the fact that these people died,” Chamberlain said. But, he said, officers on scene did everything right.
“They did a fantastic job,” he said. “They risked their lives to help these people.”
Traffic officer Scott Nelson, in a news release issued Friday morning, said the cause of the accident remains under investigation.
“This tragic event will likely have a lasting effect on the families of the victims and the rescue personnel involved in the incident,” Nelson wrote. “While every traffic collision fatality is a horrendous event, our compassion is extended to the victims’ families during their time of grievance due to the ages and number of victims involved.”
Michael Tubbs, a coach with the Turlock House of Hoops, said Boucher played on his travel teams for several years and was hoping to return this year.
“She had said she was trying to get ready to come back and play and whatnot,” Tubbs said. “I was kind of looking forward to it, and crossing my fingers.”
Boucher had stopped playing for “personal reasons,” Tubbs said, and had been one of the most talented players he had coached. Through the House of Hoops Facebook page, he is collecting money to help pay for her funeral expenses.
“She easily could have been the best out of the Valley if she just had more stick-to-itiveness about her,” he said. “Now, it’s just a sad situation.”
Sheena Taylor called her nephew King “a good kid.” Though he’d had some scrapes with the law, there was nothing serious, she said.
“He did a lot of things with his nieces and nephews,” Taylor said.
Friends on social media remembered Jackson playing basketball at Mark Twain Junior High School and King cracking jokes at Hughes Elementary.
Investigators ask anyone who saw the crash to call traffic officer Jim Reeves at (209) 652-3296. Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.