PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Three teens are dead after a fiery car crash in Pinellas County. Deputies say they were also behind a rash of burglaries and were going high-speeds in a stolen car when it all happened. Now, a grieving father is pleading for the public to look beyond their criminal record.
At 4:30 a.m. the driver of a stolen Ford Explorer, going more than 100 mph, crashed into a gray car went airborne, struck several cars parked on a lot and caught fire. Three of the four teens inside died. The driver of the gray car getting out with minor injuries. Three of the four teens inside the stolen Explorer died.
Adontai Brown felt a desperate need to see where his son, 16-year-old Keontae Brown, died. The crash also killed 16-year-old Dejarae Thomas and 14-year-old Jimmie Goshey..
“There’s a lot of things I want to ask, a lot of things I want to say but right now I can’t," said Brown.
Investigators say the Explorer and another stolen car were racing down Tampa Road before the crash. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri insists while his deputies saw them speed past no one chased after them per their policy. Brown disagrees with their narrative.
"How are you going to say there was no chase?" Brown asked. "All this happened with him just hauling ass and he just ran into it and ya’ll just ran into him? No, they chased him.”
The Sheriff calls this type of crime a dangerous trend in his county.
“Stop it. Stop doing what you are doing. This is not a game, this is deadly," said Sheriff Gualtieri.
He claims the teens were using the cars to commit other burglaries in nearby communities. Three hours before the crash, deputies spotted the Explorer on Belcher Road. According to news release, deputies attempted to conduct a traffic stop but the driver fled. The car popped up on the "hot list" bulletin as a stolen vehicle. Deputies did not pursue the car.
“One of the deceased kids that is sitting in that car across the street still has gloves on his hands from doing the car burglaries," said Sheriff Gualtieri.
“See that’s what they do," said Brown, "'Oh, I’m going to look at the background, I’m going to look at the background, I’m going to look at the background. I don’t care what happened three days ago, I care about what happened today."
ABC Action News spoke with Tom Hicks, who owns a car lot right where the teens crashed. Eight of his cars were damaged in the process. Hicks has a few questions for the parents of the teens.
"I don’t know what these kids were doing," Hicks said, "13, 14,15 years old out at four in the morning. There’s a problem right there.”
“As soon as you discipline him they [Child Protective Services] want to be at your door. They want to worry about if they’ve got a bruise. He should have a bruise if he’s out there stealing cars!” Brown said.
Brown is calling for tougher punishment on juveniles. He believes if they learn their lesson the hard way they'll stay out of trouble. His own son was released from jail just a couple of days ago.
The surviving teen in the explorer is Keontae’s 14-year-old half-brother, Keondrae Brown. The two teens in the other racing car, a Chrysler Sebring, are in custody. The Sheriff says he is looking into possible charges against them.
A gofundme was set up for the other driver involved in the accident and can be found here.