A 16-year-old who apparently lost control of his car on Santiago Canyon Road and crashed into another, killing two young men, was described Wednesday as a Boy Scout, a varsity swimmer and water polo player and "an excellent student in the top five in his class," his high school principal said.
The teen-ager, Steve Kehlet of Santa Ana, "had a grade-point average above 4.0 and had no record whatsoever of any problems," said Jim Ryan, principal at Foothill High School. "Everyone is shocked by this."
Kehlet, who had only recently gotten his driver's license, was driving north about 8 p.m. Tuesday when he apparently lost control on a curve and drifted sideways into an oncoming Volkswagen, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol. The crash killed the Volkswagen driver, Joseph Lawrence Dickinson, 23, of El Toro, and his passenger, Michael James Hallett, 22, of Trabuco Canyon.
Their bodies were pinned in the car, and it took paramedics and firemen several hours to free them, witnesses said.
Kehlet was thrown from the Pontiac he was driving, which burst into flames, witnesses said. He remained hospitalized Wednesday with a concussion, a broken pelvis and cuts on his face, according to a spokesman at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.
Kehlet was on his way home from a Boy Scout meeting and was wearing his uniform when the accident happened, said CHP spokeswoman Angel Johnson. Authorities don't suspect that drugs or alcohol were involved, she said.
"It was strictly speeding; he was going too fast," Johnson said. Kehlet was not cited, but the accident remains under investigation, Johnson said.
Tracy Willey, 20, of Fountain Valley, one of the first to arrive at the accident scene, said she saw the car fire as she drove south on Santiago Canyon Road, approaching Silverado Canyon Road.
"I got there about 30 seconds after it happened," Willey said. "There was a lady there yelling for help with some flares. She kept saying to watch out, the car was going to blow up."
The Volkswagen was up on a dirt embankment, backed into a tree, and the Pontiac was on fire in the street, with Kehlet lying next to it, Willey said. The Pontiac was completely burned within three minutes, Willey said.
Another witness, David Glick, 27, of Portola Hills, managed to pry open the door of the Volkswagen "but the two people had no pulse," he said.
At Foothill High School, Kehlet is a second team all-Century League water polo player and varsity swimmer, according to his coach, Jim Brumm.
"He is a great kid, our starting goalie," Brumm said. Kehlet also competes in the butterfly for the swimming team and has been on the varsity team for two years, Brumm said.
The CHP is asking anyone with any information to call Officer Joe Morrison at (714) 547-8311.