St. Petersburg, FL -- A fiery hit-and-run accident early this morning has left two young women killed and a third badly burned and clinging to life despite the rescue efforts of bystanders.
The crash happened about 3 a.m. at the corner of 9th Avenue South and 16th Street.
Investigators believe a 2002 Chrysler sedan was speeding southbound, the wrong direction, down 16th Street South. Three women in a Saturn were on 9th Ave South trying to make a left turn onto 16th when investigators say they were hit. The collision caused the gas tank of the Saturn ti explode, police said.
The driver of the Chrysler and a passenger fled fled the scene.
Police identified the women in the car as:
-- Grace Lashawn Collier, 25, of St. Petersburg, was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital where she is in critical condition. Police believe she was the driver of the Saturn.
-- Briana Lequinda Campbell, 23, of Gulfport, died at the scene.
-- Jamesia Chera Santoria Lang, 21, of St. Petersburg, died at the scene.
Several witnessses to the St. Pete crash braved the flames to try and get the women out.
"I seen a car go this way, a car try to turn off – a car nip it," said one witness, "the car spin, and then flames."
"She was jammed in the car. We couldn't get her. Half her body was burning. The car was burning up," said another witness, Jeremiah Cobbs.
Cobbs is one of the people who tried in vain to pull the three young women out of their car after it quickly became engulfed in flames.
"My heart made me do it," said the 30-year-old father of a 3-year-old.
Cobbs said he could smell gasoline and knew the car could explode any moment.
"And I was like, I don't want to get blown, but I need to help them," he said.
Cobbs helped save one woman. Another, he said through tears, he could not.
"I gotta take that to the grave. Seeing her face. You know what I'm saying?" said Cobbs. "It's complicated, man. When you see someone and you can't save them. That's crazy man, you can't save them."
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Throughout the day friends posted condolences and prayers for the victims on Facebook.
Meanwhile, police were still looking for the hit-and-run driver and a passenger who both apparently ran from the scene.
Jason Mells, who witnessed the accident, says a girl in a poster hanging in his family's barbershop was one of the victims.
According to the poster, she was about to celebrate her 24th birthday.
If the hit-and-run driver has any conscience, Mells said, he will turn himself in.
"What made us so different that I could stop my car, had nothing to do with it at all, to try to lend a hand," Mells said. "But you. To be the person that did it. To not even stop to lend a hand. That's sad.
"That's somebody's daughter, that's somebody's lover, somebody's mom of she's a mother," Mells said. "That could have been his sister, you feel me? He didn't even take the chance to see none of that. So. It's sad."
Investigators said that they have received information the Chrysler was seen leaving the Club One South Bar at 1833 1st Ave. S. just before the crash. Police say they are narrowing in on the driver of the other vehicle, have found the owner of the car, who told them she had loaned it to someone else.