SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. - Three teenage boys were killed in a car accident on Skyline Boulevard just south of Bear Gulch Road in San Mateo County on Halloween night.
The teenagers were not only very close friends, but two belonged to Explorer Post 109 sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire District and one was the oldest son of the Fire District's Master Mechanic, Rudy Torres who has worked for the District for 14 years.
The Menlo Park Fire District assisted in locating the three boys early Wednesday morning and were on-site as the boys' bodies were removed from the wreckage.
Rudy Torres, (Ricky's dad) Gary Cruz (Matthews's dad) and Jason Perez (Andrews big brother) knew something was wrong when they found the boys had not returned early Wednesday morning after going out the night before to look at a car Andrew was interested in buying.
According to the Menlo Park District, the three set-off in Torres's Fire Vehicle equipped with emergency radios after locating one of the boy's phones along Skyline Boulevard at 6 am and notifying the Sheriff's Department that they were missing.
Torre's then asked the Fire District for help to mount a search and rescue mission and two Chief Officers were immediately deployed to the area with a Drone while another was sent to the Torres home in North Fair Oaks to check on his wife and younger son.
They met up with San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputies at Alice's Restaurant located at the corner of Highway 84 and 35 at about 7.15 am and proceeded South on Skyline Boulevard about two miles where just south of Bear Gulch Road a Deputy first spotted skid marks on the roadway.
Perez spotted the car first about 50 feet down the hill and the three men ran down the ridge where they found the car upright with its roof completely crushed. The three young men were found dead inside the vehicle. They were all still in their seatbelts.
The two fathers and older brother spent the next hour holding an extremely emotional vigil at the vehicle as first responders from Cal-Fire, San Mateo County Fire and the Woodside and Menlo Park Fire District's arrived along with the CHP and San Mateo County Coroners Office who along with the Sheriff's Deputies thoughtfully constructed a plan to carefully and respectfully remove the three young men from the vehicle.
It took firefighters 45 minutes to disassembled the vehicle to remove the three deceased young men.
The Coroner's Office representatives compassionately allowed the family members to say their goodbyes after each of the young men were removed from the vehicle and placed in a transportation vehicle.
Ricardo Seneca Torres 19, Andrew Rogelio Gonzales 19 and Matthew Edward Eric Cruz 18 took one last ride together to County Center in Redwood City. The three close friends were described by all who knew them as "good kids with bright futures".
Ricky Torres had grown up around the Fire Service, but it was his best friend Andrew Gonzales who had convinced him to join Fire Explorer Post 109 over a year ago. Ricky liked it so much he had recently applied for and been accepted to the South Bay College Fire Academy. He and Andrew had become friends ten years ago and both had graduated from Menlo/Atherton High School together.
Andrew was a constant around the Torres household, as his mom Shelley said, his real dad wasn't in the picture much but he found a father in Ricky's dad Rudy, who treated him like he was his own son. He was an "old soul" she said "he had a 401k opened at age 18, worked two jobs, was always smiling and positive, he lived a full life" she said.
Fire Engineer Eric Mijangos who runs the Fire District's Explorer program and mentors High School and College age teens said that "both Ricky and Andrew had the drive, dedication, motivation and level of commitment needed to become firefighters. The untimely loss of these two young and talented individuals has shaken the other Explorers who are struggling, like many of us, to make sense of this loss".
Matthew Cruz was interested in computers and programing. He and Ricky had met in Kindergarten at Nativity School and become best friends, later graduating from High School at Menlo Atherton together with Andrew. The three were always together. While Matthew was on a different career path, his father Gary talked about how close the boys and the families were, often taking trips and spending time together. "Matthew loved his friends and taking care of others" his dad proudly said.
Fire Chief Schapelhouman said "the entire department is grieving the Torres family loss of their son Ricky, they are an important part of our Fire Family. Rudy is much respected as one of our two master mechanics and we've watched his boys grow up. Ricky wasn't just an Explorer, he was also working part time in Fleet Services for the Fire District for work experience".
"I just signed off on his paperwork so he could attend the Fire Academy and we were able to spend a few minutes together talking about how excited and proud he was to take this next step towards his goal in becoming a firefighter…. Sadly, that was the last time I saw him" the Chief said.
Menlo Park Firefighters are taking shifts helping the Torres family and have reached out to support the other affected families and anyone else touched by this tragedy. "There's a lot of love, compassion, understanding and patience being shown to them, we know it's hard but they know they can lean on us for support as they grieve and everyone try's to come to terms with the devastating loss of these three fine young men" the Chief said.