Four people in their early 20s were killed after their BMW veered into the wrong side of traffic and slammed into a tree in Northridge Friday night, and now officials are saying they are investigating the possible role of street racing.
The silver sedan splintered into pieces and burst into flames due to the force of the high-speed impact that occurred around 11 p.m. near the intersection of Balboa Boulevard and Lassen Street, according to Detective Bill Bustos with the Los Angeles Police Department.
All four of the car's occupants were dead by the time paramedics arrived, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
Coroner's officials identified the deceased as Martin Gomez, 20, of Granada Hills; 20-year-old North Hills resident Denney Lomeli; 22-year-old Amanda Alfar of Panorama City; and Leena Ammari, 21, of Reseda.
The aunt of Amanda Alfar told the Los Angeles Times the 22-year-old was celebrating a friend's birthday by going out to dinner on Friday night. She had just celebrated her own birthday two weeks earlier at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks, her aunt said.
"She was the rock of the family,” her aunt, Joanne Falahat, told the Times. "We’re absolutely devastated."
The vehicle was traveling east on Lassen Street, approaching Balboa Avenue at a high rate of speed when it swerved into oncoming traffic and smashed into a wall and tree, among other objects, investigators said.
"Regrettably, coming eastbound on Lassen, there is a considerable hill prior to the intersection," Bustos said. "After crossing the intersection it appears that the vehicle lost control as a result of the speed."
Officials later said street racing may have played a role in the deadly crash.
Bustos estimated the BMW was driving at a speed two or three times the posted limit of 40 mph, meaning it was likely traveling around 100 mph.
He added that a second vehicle, a four-door black sedan, may have been involved. Authorities are interested in interviewing that driver as a possible witness.
Police posted surveillance images of the second car on Instagram.
A pedestrian witness who spoke to media at the scene said the cars were "clearly racing."
Anyone with information about the incident can contact LAPD detectives at 818-644-8000.