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2 teens killed, driver arrested in Ridge crash

Jacqueline Salvador and Ryan Baumgartner were killed in

Jacqueline Salvador and Ryan Baumgartner were killed in a car crash in Ridge on April 14, 2012, police said. Photo Credit: Handouts

A trip home from an amusement park ended in tragedy early Saturday for a group from Suffolk County when their sport utility truck slammed into a tree in Ridge, killing two teenagers, police said.

The driver, Thomas Smith, 20, of Ridge, was arrested and charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs.

Smith told police he fell asleep at the wheel of the gray 2011 Honda Ridgeline "and woke up to passengers screaming," said Det. Sgt. Daniel Molloy of the Seventh Squad.

Smith's girlfriend, Jacqueline Salvador, 19, of Ridge, and Ryan Baumgartner, 17, of Rocky Point, died in the 1:24 a.m. wreck. Both were sitting on the passenger side -- Salvador in the front, Baumgardner in the rear -- and were ejected from the vehicle by the impact, Molloy said.

The wreck was "horrific," he said. "The damage was unbelievable."

Johnny Salvador, 17, of Coram, Jacqueline Salvador's younger brother, suffered a broken arm and leg. He underwent surgery at Stony Brook University Medical Center and was listed in guarded condition last night.

Smith was uninjured while another passenger, Taylor Lynch, 16, of Shirley, sustained minor injuries.

Smith was driving north on William Floyd Parkway just north of Longwood Road -- less than two miles from the home Smith rented on Sally Lane in Ridge -- when the truck's passenger side slammed into the tree, Molloy said.

A deputy sheriff Smith flagged down after the crash suspected Smith was under the influence based on his demeanor, police said.

Police said a blood test confirmed that Smith was impaired by a prescription drug, which they declined to identify. Smith told deputies he had a legal prescription.

Smith is being held at the Seventh Precinct in Shirley. He is scheduled to be arraigned Sunday in First District Court in Central Islip. "He's upset," Molloy said. "These were his friends and girlfriend."

Saturday morning, relatives and friends gathered in front of Baumgardner's home to grieve.

A junior at Rocky Point High School, Baumgartner had dreams of becoming a dentist, said his mother, Randi. "He was a happy-go-lucky kid. A very genuine person."

"You couldn't not like Ryan," said his father, Robert Baumgartner Sr.

The teen was close friends with Jacqueline Salvador from their time as students in the Longwood School District in Middle Island, said Melissa Baumgartner, 20, his sister.

Fighting back tears, she said Salvador, who had been dating Smith for about a week, was her best friend and was "always there when you needed her, no matter what she was going through."

Melissa was invited on the trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., but declined because of work.

Until recently, Salvador had lived with her parents and brother Johnny in Coram.

Salvador's family could not be reached for comment, but a neighbor said the siblings were typical teenagers.

"They are both very good kids," said Lydia Cole, who lives near the family's home on Marla Drive. "Always very outgoing and smiling."

The five youngsters had traveled the 135 miles to Six Flags on Friday and were returning home when the crash occurred, Molloy said.

Police don't believe that Smith drove the entire way home from the amusement park. Another person, who police did not identify but described as a friend of the group, drove the Ridgeline to Long Island and was dropped off at Exit 60 of the Long Island Expressway, near Ronkonkoma.

With Keith Herbert


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