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Two Teens Are Killed in High-Speed Crash

January 14, 2002|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Saugus High School athletes were killed early Sunday morning in a high-speed crash. The driver had no license, the accident's investigator said.

Robert Smith and Sheldon Bell, both 17 and seniors, died about 1 a.m. Sunday after Smith lost control of his Ford Mustang. The speeding car left thick skid marks as it crossed a median, spun around and rammed a backyard retaining wall of a Saugus house.

Bell was declared dead at the scene by paramedics. Smith was pronounced dead soon after at a hospital.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Slater said the Department of Motor Vehicles had no record of Smith being issued a driver's license in California. Friends who gathered Sunday at the site of the accident disputed that, but none of them disputed that the football player liked speed.

"We've got to race sometime," Tim Plevack said Smith told him at school Friday, the last time he saw his teammate.

"He pushed everything," said Plevack, 16. "He pushed it to the max."

Slater said he had not yet determined how fast Smith was driving, but he said the white Mustang was traveling well above Bouquet Canyon Road's posted limit of 50 mph.

"The skid marks out there tell the story," Slater said.

Saturday night, Smith and Bell were among about 200 teenagers dancing at a Valencia arcade. The two boys, who had become close after Bell moved to the area last summer from the Antelope Valley, were good for laughs. Bell, who was 6-foot-5 and weighed more than 200 pounds, was a hugger.

"Sheldon's hugs were like the best things ever. He was like a big teddy bear," said Kevin O'Donnell, 16, who played football with Bell. "He gave me a hug on Friday. He came up behind me and said, 'Guess who?' "

Bell was nearing the end of basketball season.

"He was playing extremely well and had a great personality," Coach Jeff Hallman said. "He was a big member of our basketball family and will be sorely missed."

Word of Smith and Bell's deaths spread quickly Sunday and seemed to sober a crowd of teenagers fond of putting their cars through their paces. A stream of stunned friends visited the place where the two crashed.

The football team met at the school Sunday and watched game footage of Smith and Bell. A candlelight service on campus was planned for Sunday night.

Samantha Lopez, a 17-year-old senior, said she sat next to Smith in economics class, and he joked he didn't need to study because his mother was an accountant.

Lopez said that when Smith rode in her car, he was impressed that she drove so fast.

"I'll never do that again," she said Sunday. "Ever."

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