Saturday, June 22

Friends remember young people killed, hurt in crash

A Port St Lucie Community is aching after three young people were killed and two others injured, , all between the ages of 16 and 20, in a pickup truck crash on Veterans Memorial Parkway late Friday.

Port St Lucie police said around 11:35 p.m. a red Dodge Ram pickup with five people inside went off the roadway and hit a tree in the 1900 block of the Parkway.

Twenty-year-old Leah Herman, 18-year-old Jimmy Brown and 16-year-old Draiden Frank were pronounced dead at the scene.

A 17-year-old girl was taken to a hospital with serious injuries and a 19-year-old man, the driver, was in stable condition.

Tire tracks from the incident still carve out the ground in front of the tree that was hit, while shards of glass still litter the ground.

The tree’s scarred bark is now covered with balloons, candles, photos and trinkets.

On Monday, friends of Herman and Frank spoke to WPTV’s Kate Hussey about their life at a memorial set up at the crash site.

“All the pictures, just, memories of us all,” Blake Mele, a close friend, said. “Here’s Homecoming, when they graduated, made me dress up in daisy dukes,” Mele chuckled after showing a WPTV crew the photographs.

Mele said he graduated from ort Pierce Central High School with Herman and had known Frank, who police said attended Acceleration Academy, for about three years.

He said he considered both of them to be a brother and sister.

“You always hear about it, but you never believe it until it happens to you or someone you know,” Mele said.

Mele recalled hearing the news his friends were killed, and said he had gotten a call from another close friend early Saturday morning.

“The first few minutes after receiving the news, I felt like I couldnt breathe,” Mele said. “One thing about our circle, we were family, it wasnt friends. We were all so close. I’d do anything to have them back.”

One by one, that circle of friends came to add their own tributes and visit their friends’ memorial.

Mele said each token placed by their crosses was significant.

Herman and Frank wore hats, which were laid at the feet of their memorials. Seashells were placed in Herman and Brown’s memory.

“They brought the energy to everything,” Mele said of the two young people. “Like if you were feeling down, they had their ways of putting a smile on your face, and I don’t know I never really saw them sad. They always kept everyone else smiling. And thats probably one of the things I’ll miss the most about them. I didn’t know Jimmy, I never met him, but I’m sure hes a hell of a young man as well. Hundreds of people took a loss that night.”

The circle of friends took one last group photo with the memorials, and said though their friends are gone, there is hope in that, while trinkets and photos won’t cover their scars, the legacy they leave may just help those scars heal.

“I just hope everyone remembers them for who they were and that their memories live on through us forever,” Mele said.

The driver of the car and the 17-year-old are still recovering in the hospital.

Mele said the 17-year-old, another close friend of his, made it through at least one surgery but is still in a coma.

Police have not yet identified the driver.

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