Newport Beach public safety workers on Tuesday grappled with the aftermath of what appeared to be an historic tragedy, trying to understand how a fast-moving luxury sedan veered from a busy thoroughfare and into a tree, where it caught fire and claimed the lives of five high school students.
Police and firefighters could not recall a car accident, at least in the last three decades, that ended so many lives.
"I've been on duty for almost 30 years, and I've seen some terrible vehicular accidents," Newport Beach Fire Capt. Glenn White said. "This was, if not the worst, one of the worst I've ever seen."
Police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe could not say with certainty whether the car accident had the highest death toll in modern Newport Beach.
"This is certainly the worst in recent memory," Lowe said. "Absolutely."
The last accident of great magnitude took place along Mariner's Mile in January 2011. That 10-car crash claimed three lives, a former Corona del Mar High School track star among them.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the Mariner's Mile crash was in June 2011. It happened on Jan. 15, 2011.
Also memorable was a 1997 crash involving 10 youths piled into an SUV that crashed, killing one and injuring several others, including a 17-year-old, who fell into an 11-week coma.
Monday's wreck left three girls and two boys dead. Each attended high school in Irvine.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department identified the victims as:
Abdulrahman M. Alyahyan, 17, a senior at University High School — the driver.
Nozad Al Hamawendi, 17, a junior at Irvine High School.
Cecilia D. Zamora 17, a junior at Irvine High.
Aurora C. Cabrera, 16, a sophomore at Irvine High.
Robin A. Cabrera, 17, a senior at Irvine High.
The Cabreras were sisters.
Someone with Alyahyan's name received a trio of driving citations earlier this year, according to Orange County Superior Court records.
Police on Tuesday evening could not confirm whether it was the same person.