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Family, friends remember teens lost in fatal crash

Left, Jennifer Gotay, 25, sister of crash victim

Left, Jennifer Gotay, 25, sister of crash victim Carmen Rivera-Gotay, visits the site, right, where her sister was killed in a deadly crash on Walt Whitman Road in Melville. (June. 30, 2013, June 29, 2013) Credit: James Carbone, Paul Mazza

Jennifer Gotay's eyes filled with tears Sunday as she remembered the way her little sister, Carmen Rivera-Gotay, 17, had looked to the future.

"She just wanted to leave Long Island, live life, experience things," Gotay, 25 of Amityville, said as she visited a small memorial created at the site of the Melville crash that killed her sister. "Everybody loved her . . . She could make you feel like she's your best friend."

Carmen Rivera-Gotay and Ray Vega, 18, died Saturday morning when Vega tried to speed his Honda Accord past a Pontiac Grand Am being driven by his older brother, Suffolk County police said. Vega lost control and careened into a tree on Walt Whitman Road in Melville.

Vega and Rivera-Gotay were among four close friends, including Vega's older brother, Kevin, 19, who were on their way home about 1:15 a.m. after going to Taco Bell on Route 110, police said.

At a midnight vigil Saturday, hundreds of community members -- mostly young people -- gathered at Huntington High School to remember the two Huntington Station teens.

A large rock in front of the school, painted white and adorned with candles and flowers, was filled with messages.

The Rev. Bernadette Watkins, of Huntington Outreach Ministries, who spoke at the vigil, Sunday said, "I asked them to pray for the parents, of course. And I also wanted them to pray for the young people, to get through the hard times."

School district officials put out a statement saying grief counseling will be available at the school Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m.

A man at the accident site who identified himself as Ray's father, also named Ray Vega, said his son had spent all day Friday fixing the yard and setting up a pool to get ready for his graduation party.

"Good people go first," he said of his son, who had received a scholarship to college. "He wasn't the kind of teenager just hanging out on the street."

"I love my son," Vega said. "He's a good friend, a good guy."

Marc Solomowitz, 19, of Huntington, was a friend of both teens. "I never saw him without a smile on his face, he put everyone in a good mood," he said of Vega.

Vega was a three-year track-and-field athlete who graduated from Huntington High School. Rivera-Gotay was described by family as an avid violinist and aspiring psychologist.

Isaias Perez, 21, was in the Pontiac with Kevin Vega. Neither was injured. Perez's father, also named Isaias Perez, said Sunday his son was too upset to talk.

Det. Sgt. John O'Sullivan said the investigation is noncriminal. Investigators are waiting to talk to area businesses with security cameras that may have taped the accident.

Jaime Burgos, 50, of Huntington, a friend of the Vega family, also went to visit the site Sunday. "Ray was ambitious, ready to go to college," he said.

On Friday, Vega was tired from preparing for his graduation party and wasn't sure whether he should go out with his friends, Burgos said.

"He should've stayed home," he said.

With Jennifer Barrios and Fausto Giovanny Pinto

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