Loved ones remember 3 teens killed by suspected drunk driver

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A group of teens on spring break died after a suspected drunk driver slammed into their car and burst into flames.

A fourth person was in the car but escaped with minor burns.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bani Duarte is behind bars facing DUI charges for the crash that happened early Thursday morning in southern California.

“That was a 17-year-old boy, he had the biggest smile, the biggest heart,” Allie Rossi said. “He was the most genuine person I’ve ever met.”

Rossi clinches to the photo of her little brother A.J., who she helped raise after their mother died. A.J. and his two friends, Dylan Mack and Brooke Hawley, all died after a violent collision which investigators say involved a drunk driver.

“Those three kids in specific were always so full of life,” Rossi said.

A.J. was just voted as having the best smile in school.

“I’ll never see him again. He melted in the backseat of a car because of a drunk driver and I don’t think it’s fair and I’m crushed, I’m hurt, I’m a million emotions running through me,” Rossi said.

The three friends were on a spring break trip before graduation and whose lives ended in the fiery wreck. Young lives, family members say were stolen from them.

“My son was a wonderful child. He brought great happiness into my life,” father Albert Rossi said.” He loved his football, basketball. This was his room. He would give you the shirt of his back. He was just the All-American kid.”

The sole survivor of the crash, identified as Alexis Vargas, was treated and released from the hospital.

The teens were a tight knit group. 

Hawley is being remembered for her beauty, inside and out.

“She was a beautiful girl, loved soccer, fit, every room she walked into, she lit up,” Rossi said. 

Mack was known for his humor around classmates and the loved he showed to so many including girlfriend Kiera Bass.

“I loved him so much, we did everything together, I could never imagine it with someone else,” Bass said. “He really meant the world to me, it’s heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.”

Family friends have set up a GoFundMe page in honor of AJ to raise money for his funeral expenses.

8 News NOW has learned a prayer vigil is planned for the teens Friday night at 6pm at Knickerbocker Park.

The vigil is open to the community.

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