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Teen Driver In Quadruple Fatal Crash Had Only Learner's Permit

Collision into a tree threw all four passengers from car of boy, 17, who was the only survivor

By JAMES FORD

pix11.com | @jamesfordtv

9:17 PM EDT, October 8, 2012

HEMPSTEAD, NY (PIX11)

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A teenage driver survived a car crash that killed four of his closest friends. Now, investigators try to determine what charges the young man, who only had his learner's permit, will face, as he tries to cope with the quadruple fatal collision in which he was at fault.

"I saw four bodies on the [ground]," said eyewitness Michael Campo. He lives near Exit 17 of the Southern State Parkway, where the crash happened, around 3:40 Monday morning. Campo ran to the scene when he heard the crash. "[It was a] big explosion, like a bomb went off."

Campo pointed out the same thing that many other residents showed PIX11 News. The section of the Southern State where this crash happened is about a thousand feet east of Exit 17. Roughly a thousand feet east of that is a hill that empties out into a curve, driving east.

That stretch of highway is hazardous, even under normal conditions. Witnesses said that the frequent crashes at that location also usually involve speed. In this case, the driver was also inexperienced. One other factor may have been involved.

"I went by the road on the highway, and it was slippery," Campo said. "It was raining out. So they must've come over the hill [and missed the curve], and they crashed."

Just after noon, some friends of Beer and the deceased teens arrived on scene. "I had to see it for myself," said Alex Mahana. "Now that I saw it, I'm just shocked."

Mahana's brother, Travis, who was also at the scene, regularly rode in cars with Beer and the others in the past. Travis Mahana spent part of Monday afternoon picking up his friends' shoes and eyeglasses, the only remnants of their young lives that were left at the scene.

"I'm speechless," Travis said to PIX11 News. His friends, however, continued to express their astonishment and grief. "I was just surprised," said Ravi Lutchman, another teen who had known everyone who had been in the 2012 Subaru Impreza, which Beer had just gotten this fall. "[I thought], 'It can't be these guys who passed away.' I grew up with these kids. It can't be that they passed away so young. I didn't believe it until I'm here now."

New York State Law required drivers who have only a permit to drive only when a parent, guardian or driving instructor is a passenger with them. In Joseph Beer's case, his passengers were some of his longest-standing friends, all from his neighborhood in Richmond Hill, Queens, ten miles away, whose lives were cut short.

The emotional intensity of the situation was summed up by a woman who lives on Taylor Road, which runs adjacent to the Southern State. Her home, about 50 paces from where the Subaru split in half upon impact with a tree, faces the crash scene.

"It's anybody's worst nightmare," said Amy Buchanan. "Imagine a mom being awakentd in the middle of the night with somebody telling her that someone in her family is gone."

Beer is being treated by doctors at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. His family is with him. The hospital will not release information about his condition.