Left: New York State Police investigate a fatal single-car crash...

Left: New York State Police investigate a fatal single-car crash on the westbound Southern State Parkway in North Merrick. The crash killed 2 people and left 3 critically injured, cops said. (Jan. 27, 2013) Right: Blossom Castro, a 22-year-old victim of the crash, is shown in an undated photo. Credit: Howard Schnapp, Handout

A car carrying five people from a birthday party careened off the Southern State Parkway in North Merrick early Sunday and wrapped around the tree it struck, killing two passengers and injuring three others, including the driver, police said.

New York State Police said two passengers in the 2008 Nissan Maxima -- Bryan J. Rivas, 20, and Blossom J. Castro, 22, both of Hempstead -- were pronounced dead at the scene.

Driver Kervens Boutin, 29, of Hempstead, was taken along with another passenger, Marlo Cabrera, 19, of the Bronx, to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where they were listed in critical condition. Boutin, who relatives said had both legs amputated following the crash, was charged with reckless driving.

A fifth passenger, Antonio Rivas, 22, of Hempstead, was taken to Winthrop-University Medical Center in Mineola and listed in critical condition Sunday night.

The car ran off the road then crashed into trees near exit 23 in North Merrick about 5:45 a.m., police said. The area is on a stretch of the parkway dubbed "Blood Alley" because of the many fatal crashes between Exits 17 and 30.

The group was returning from the party in Amityville, said Tania Garcia, 22, of Danbury, Conn., but originally from Hempstead, adding she had been a friend of Blossom Castro since the two met in middle school.

Castro's cousin, Marlin Castro, 33, of Hempstead, said that while she was his biological cousin they were raised as siblings by his mother. His biological sister, Mayra Castro, is the girlfriend of Boutin and mother of the driver's 4-year-old daughter.

At NUMC's emergency room Sunday afternoon, about a dozen people waited for news about the victims being treated there.

"Everybody is devastated," Marlin Castro's mother, Araminta Castro, 58, said later at her Hempstead home.

She said her niece attended Hempstead High School but dropped out to get a job and was studying for a GED at Nassau Community College. Blossom Castro hoped someday to be a police officer, said Araminta Castro, who said she was the victim's legal guardian through most of her childhood.

At the crash scene Sunday chunks of the mangled car and items from inside -- sneakers, a New York Yankees baseball cap and head rests -- were strewn across an embankment off the parkway between trees and in the backyards of several homes.

Both of Boutin's legs were amputated, said Wilda Pierre-Louis, of Hempstead, who said she is Boutin's sister.

"He's fighting for his life," Pierre-Louis, 44, said by telephone from the hospital. "We're taking it one day, one minute at a time."

Boutin has a second young daughter and works as a security guard at Roosevelt High School, she said.

Investigators spent the morning checking the area for evidence of how the crash occurred. Crews sliced the car in two after it wrapped around a tree next to the parkway.

The crash closed the westbound parkway for several hours.

Jason Todeschini, of Ott Lane in North Merrick, said he arrived home from work between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. Sunday and had just sat down to eat when he heard the crash.

"There was no screeching. Nothing. It sounded like the car was tumbling and then I heard the bang," he said.

When he went outside he saw what he described as a "mangled" car.

Crashes are frequent in the area of the parkway that is just 40 feet from his backyard fence, Todeschini said.

He said his house is one of two that touch the parkway and that he has been asking legislators to add a guardrail because of the number of recent accidents.

Christopher Clement, second assistant chief of the Merrick Fire Department, said his crews used heavy rescue equipment to try to free the people trapped in the mangled car, but stopped once it became clear that they did not survive the crash.

The area of the crash is near a stretch of the parkway where nearly 40 people have been killed in crashes in the past six years. At least seven people were killed in crashes in 2012, one more than in 2011.

Four teenagers died in the early morning hours of Oct. 8 when a 17-year-old driver suspected of being high on marijuana and with just a learner permit crashed his 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STI after it failed to take a curve between Exit 18 and Exit 17, heading west. The force of that crash split the car in two.

The driver, Joseph Beer of South Richmond Hill, Queens, survived and was charged with aggravated vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the deaths of his four friends. Beer, who had been out of jail on bail earlier in the month, was sent back Thursday after testing positive for marijuana.

With Jennifer Barrios, Emily Ngo and Deon Hampton

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