The crash happened around 9:30 p.m. on Riverdale Avenue in Yonkers, and surveillance video from a nearby gas station showed the moment of impact.
One resident described the horrific scene.
"I heard a very loud noise," Maria Delgado said. "Unusual. Never seen anything worse. So I went to the window because I live nearby, and I see a guy running and saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God!' I get dressed up and come out, and the car is split in half with dead bodies on one side and on this side... and the white car opposite from the way it was coming."
Hundreds joined in communal sorrow and shock Wednesday night following the tragic events.
"This pain ... a mother -- I would never want to feel this," family friend Maria Sanchez said.
RAW VIDEO: Surveillance video shows moment of crash
Yonkers police said officers saw a white 2009 Infiniti sedan being driven erratically and tried to stop the car, and that the driver briefly appeared to pull over before stepping on the gas.
Officers followed the vehicle, and police said the car "continued to accelerate beyond reckless speeds" as it approached the intersection at Culver Street.
At the same time, a silver 2006 Nissan sedan occupied by four young men -- identified as Brandon Sierra, Randy Brisbane, Tamari Watkins, and Anthony Cruz, all 18 and Yonkers residents -- was making a right turn south onto Riverdale Avenue from eastbound Culver Street.
As the Nissan entered the intersection, the Infiniti collided with the Nissan, and the force of the impact split the Nissan in half.
All four of the young men in the Nissan were thrown from the vehicle and died at scene.
BREAKING: Yonkers police now confirm a total of 5 people have died in a two vehicle crash overnight https://t.co/L97nEBZMRi— Derick Waller (@wallerABC7) December 23, 2020
The driver of the Infiniti, 36-year-old Devon Haywood of Mount Vernon, was extricated from his vehicle and later died at the hospital.
Haywood was a convicted drug dealer who'd served years in federal prison. Yonkers police haven't said why they think he fled last night.
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"Last night's car accident on Riverdale Avenue was nothing short of tragic," Mayor Mike Spano said. "Four young lives were cut short by the recklessness of one individual. Let this be a lesson to all who drive at excessive speeds - it not only puts your life at risk but also the innocent lives with whom you share the road. My deepest condolences and prayers go to the families of those lost, especially during this holiday season."
BREAKING overnight — fatal crash ends with a car in multiple pieces across Riverdale Ave. in #Yonkers. At least two people are confirmed dead. Several others hospitalized in unknown condition. The latest on channel 7. #abc7NY pic.twitter.com/gvTYbly190— Derick Waller (@wallerABC7) December 23, 2020
The investigation is on-going as detectives continue to develop information and recover evidence.
"On behalf of the men and women of the Yonkers Police Department, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those young men," Police Commissioner John Mueller said. "This is an unspeakable tragedy brought upon by the reckless behavior of one individual, who also suffered the ultimate consequence. I want the families and all community members to know that the Yonkers Police will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident and will make all our resources available to support the families."
Yonkers police stressed that officers were not chasing the suspect vehicle, only following at a safe distance.
"The police were not engaged in a high-speed pursuit," Detective Lt. Dean Politopoulos said. "This was a terrible tragedy, and we mourn the loss of these four young men. Our officers are trained to assess every situation and in this case disengaged and did not pursue to avoid this exact type of outcome. The sector car was approximately 15 seconds behind and not in emergency mode. The driver of the Infiniti Devon Haywood has a history of reckless driving. Our sincere condolences to the families. I cannot fathom their loss."
Neighbors say speeding has been a problem on this wide open avenue.
"I get very nervous because I drive and I live here," Delgado said. "I pass by this street many times, but I always look out...The roads are very well, you know, there are the lines and everything. There shouldn't be that many accidents. People are driving reckless."
Yonkers Public Schools released a statement on the deaths of four of the young men.
"With great sorrow, the Yonkers Public Schools mourns the tragic death of four June 2020 graduates lost in last evening's car crash in Yonkers, Saunders Trades and Technical High School graduates Brandon N. Sierra, Randy Isaiah Brisbane, Tamari J. Watkins and Riverside High School graduate Anthony Cruz," the statement read.
School officials also expressed their condolences.
"This unthinkable tragedy, the loss of four young people with their lives ahead of them, breaks our hearts," Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada said. "Our prayers and condolences are with the family members and friends suffering today. These young men were beloved students at Saunders. Throughout last evening, Principal Mazzola, the school's administrative team and teachers received phone calls and tried to comfort the family members, graduates, current students and staff."
Family members, Yonkers Public Schools students or staff who may need emotional support with their grief over the holiday may call the District's Pupil Support Services Department at 914-376-8489.
"Saunders High School has always been a tight knit community which takes pride in being a family and creating family values," Saunders Trades and Technical High School Principal Steven Mazzola said. "Last night, the Saunders family lost four terrific young men in a horrific accident. Randy, Tamari, Brandon and Anthony will be missed, but will forever live in the hearts of every person who has been lucky to be a member of the Saunders family."
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