Kevin Jordan was driving to his Sunday night ritual, a quick game of pickup basketball in the San Clemente hills, when he split off from two carloads of friends to take the back way.
Near San Clemente High School, where they all went to school together, Jordan's Alfa Romeo headed in one direction and the two other cars chose a different route, with Kyle Williams out front in his Nissan Maxima.
Moments later, coming from opposite directions, Jordan and Williams slammed into each other on Avenida Vista Hermosa within yards of their destination, the lighted basketball courts at Marblehead Inland Park.
Jordan and his front-seat passenger, Aaron Cornwell, both 17 and seven weeks from graduation, were killed instantly.
Williams and his passenger, Matthew E. Hidalgo, survived, and were home Monday nursing their wounds.
"They're coming from opposite directions. Were they racing to get to the same location? I have no information that they were," said Lt. Fred Lisanti of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, adding that the incident is still under investigation. "We're still a bit in limbo."
News of the tragedy greeted the 2,300 students of San Clemente High as they came to class Monday morning. The school's flags already were waving at half-staff, a somber memorial to last week's killings at the high school in Littleton, Colo.
"It's been a very difficult day for everyone," said school Principal James T. Walshe.
On Monday, Walshe and other school administrators had planned to talk to the students about the Colorado shootings, to let students know they had a place to turn if they felt frustrated or heard rumors of possible violence, Walshe said. Those sessions will be delayed until later this week.
Scores of students who knew Jordan and Cornwell left school shortly after learning about their deaths, overwhelmed by the loss. A few took flowers to the site of the crash, most too emotional to talk. "We love Kevin & Aaron. God be with you," one note read.
Orange County sheriff's deputies said the collision occurred about 8:55 p.m. Sunday when Jordan's car turned left onto a side street, Via Turqueza, and was struck on the right side by the Nissan Maxima, which was going straight. All four students hurt were wearing seat belts, but none of the cars were equipped with air bags.
Lisanti said there is no evidence that alcohol or excessive speed were involved, although toxicology tests and the accident investigation have yet to be completed.
All three cars started from Cornwell's house a few miles away.