Tragic head-on crash leaves four young people dead in Aptos

The friends who died in the fatal joy ride were all under the age of 22.

CHP said seven people were packed inside a black Mercedes-Benz when the driver of the Mercedes lost control and crashed with a Ford F-150 truck. Investigators said alcohol, speed and the fact no one was wearing a seatbelt were all factors in the crash.

"They were nice people, funny people and good people," said Jesse Anaya who knew three of the victims who died. "They had a future ahead of them. I just don't know what happened."

CHP said around 8 p.m., the black Mercedes-Benz was heading westbound on Freedom Boulevard toward the highway when the car crossed onto oncoming traffic. Three people were killed on impact and a fourth person died at the hospital.

The coroner identified them as 22-year-old Arturo Avalos. He was behind the wheel and owned the Mercedes. His passengers were 18-year-old Osbaldo Melgoza-Ortiz, 19-year-old Teresita Brady and a 16-year-old girl. All of them were from Watsonville.

Four others in the Mercedes and the driver of the truck all suffered major injuries.

Elaine Spotswood was driving right behind the F-150.

"I went into the window of the black Mercedes and yelled into the window can anyone hear me? Can anyone respond?" said Spotswood. "No one responded and it was a horrific scene in the car."

Emergency crews used the jaws of life to pry the hood of the Mercedes open to rescue the trapped victims. CHP said none of passengers in the Mercedes were wearing seatbelts and two of them were sitting on other people's laps.

"One witness even said they saw people hanging out of the vehicle," said Officer Bradley Sadek of Santa Cruz CHP. "Witnesses also saw someone on the moon roof and someone outside the windows dancing."

CHP also found broken and open bottles of alcohol inside the Mercedes.

"Senseless, yes. Avoidable yes," said Spotswood. "Kids give into peer pressure."

The youngest person was a 16-year-odl was a junior at Renaissance Continuation High School in Watsonville. Grief counselors were at the school Monday.

They were all sent to various hospitals in Santa Clara and Salinas. At last check, at least three of them are in critical condition including the driver.