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3 teens die when car crashes into Modesto tree

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POSTED April 25, 2014 7:28 p.m.

MODESTO  (AP) — Three 16-year-olds died in Modesto when the stolen vehicle they were riding in hit a tree following a brief police pursuit, police said.

The 2009 Nissan Altima crashed in front of a Modesto home and caught fire around 11:43 p.m. Thursday, minutes after a police officer spotted it and briefly gave chase, police said on Friday.

“The officer had the foresight and judgment to determine it wasn’t worth it and turned off the lights and siren and let the car go,” Officer Scott Nelson said.

The officer lost sight of the vehicle before coming upon the crash scene while searching for the car minutes later, police said.

The female driver was pinned inside the smoke-filled passenger compartment. She was pronounced dead at the scene after firefighters got her out, according to police. The two male passengers were pulled out, but died at hospitals. The victims’ identities were not released, though police said they were Modesto residents.

“(Officers) used fire extinguishers and hoses from neighbors to put out the fire, and broke some windows,” Modesto Police Sgt. David Chamberlain said. “They did a fantastic job. They risked their lives to help these people.”

The car had been reported stolen earlier in the night. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

The officer appears to have followed the department’s pursuit policy, though a supervisor will review the decision, Nelson said.

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