A Washington state teen who was killed in a car crash last week had snuck out of his home to drive around with friends before the deadly collision occurred, his devastated family said.
Newly minted driver Landon Staley, 16, was behind the wheel of his Kia Sorento when it crashed into the back of a parked semi-trailer Wednesday, colliding with such force that the top of the SUV was torn off, KCPQ-TV reported.
“You can’t prepare yourself for losing a child,” Landon’s mother, Cari Staley, told KCPQ-TV.
Armed with a driver’s license for just two months, Staley snuck out of his family’s Lynnwood apartment for the first time ever to drive around with friends on the night of the crash.
“He decided to go out and drive and break a few rules and paid the ultimate price,” she told the television station. “I just really hope this tragedy impacts kids.”
Passengers Travin Nelson Phongphiou, 16, and Mikayla Sorenson, 15, were also killed in the crash, officials said.
Another 15-year-old girl who was in the car remains hospitalized.
Officials are investigating what led to the collision.
The deadly crash stunned loved ones and classmates who took to social media to memorialize the teens.
“You were my friend and my little sister... I love and miss you so much,” a friend wrote on Facebook about Sorenson.
“You left so soon. I love you so much Kayla,” another friend posted. “You didn’t deserve this. You’re an amazing human being.”
Phongphiou’s father, Vinnie Phongphiou, also took to social media, writing: “My son gave his loving heart to everyone he meets and never looked for any in return. Travin had so much love and life. I miss [you] so much son.”
“Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, we remained close friends and I considered as him a brother to me,” Vuong Nguyen, a classmate who created a GoFundMe page for the teens, wrote about Phongphiou.
As of Monday, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $5,600.
“The last thing their families need is to worry about is money,” Nguyen wrote. “My heart goes out to the family and all those affected.”