PORT ST. LUCIE — Two local high school baseball players died late Saturday in a car crash and a third player is hospitalized.
St. Lucie West Centennial baseball coach Philip Russ said Christian Bono and Nehemiah Turban, both 16, died in the crash. Matthew Bono, 15, is hospitalized in Miami with injuries. Turban went to Treasure Coast High School; the two brothers to Centennial.
The crash, in which a Toyota struck a power pole and caught fire, happened about 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the area of Southwest California and Southwest Heatherwood boulevards, according to Sgt. Robert Vega, police spokesman.
The location is east of Interstate 95 between St. Lucie West Boulevard and Crosstown Parkway.
Matthew Bono was in the back seat at the time of the crash and suffered a skull fracture and burns and was transported to Kendall Regional Burn Center in Miami for treatment, Russ said.
According to Russ, the trio had been celebrating Turban’s 16th birthday.
Christian Bono was a rising junior catcher at Centennial; Turban was a rising junior outfielder at Treasure Coast and Matthew Bono is a rising sophomore pitcher at Centennial.
“Christian was a goofy, funny kid who was full of personality,” Russ said. “He was our bench guy. He kept everybody loose, smiling and joking with his smirks."
He said Christian often blew kisses and kept everyone "light" in the dugout.
"He was super personable. He loved everybody, all the coaches. He was everybody’s favorite kid to be around.... a heck of an athlete and a great kid.
Russ said Christian had a big future ahead of him.
"He had a chance to play at the next level,” he said.
Treasure Coast baseball coach David Morales said he was notified of Turban’s passing when Russ called him at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
"I couldn't comprehend it," Morales said. "It can't be real. I thought it was a nightmare."
He said Nehemiah was a good kid; there for others, and all about the team.
"He gave more than 110 percent when it came to baseball. Had his teammates' backs whenever they needed it," he said. "He definitely will be missed.
"It’s tragic loss to the program and his fellow peers. I can’t imagine what his mother is going through. It’s not an easy situation.”
Russ said Matthew Bono was taken initially to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute in Fort Pierce before being taken to Miami.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Matthew can overcome whatever he’s facing,” Russ said. “It’s kind of being torn in two places. You want to support the family. It’s hurting them as much as it’s hurting us."
He said the team is hurt because of the loss of friends, but they're also trying to muster up enough strength to support Matthew.
“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is we love each other. It’s a family atmosphere. My players didn’t lose a teammate, they lost a brother. I didn’t lose a ballplayer. I lost a little brother or son. That’s the relationships we build.
"To know I have one in Heaven and one in the hospital is tough,” he said.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help raise money for funeral and medical costs for the families.
TCPalm breaking news reporter Will Greenlee contributed to this report.
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