Police are investigating whether excessive speed played a role in a Monday night vehicle crash that killed a Hauppauge teen who was heading home with friends from a weekly youth group meeting at his church, according to Suffolk Police.
Michael Cisternas, 16, was in the passenger seat of a 2002 Nissan Altima driven by Jonathan Buckley, 18, also of Hauppauge. Buckley's sister, Lynn, 16, was in the backseat.
The three were traveling from St. Thomas More Catholic Church to Cisternas' home on Maureen Drive, a 10-minute trip. The last leg of the route winds through a residential area with a 30 mph speed limit.
At about 9:40 p.m., police said, Buckley lost control of the vehicle on Sandra Drive, hit a mail box and slid into a tree. The accident happened just over 400 feet from Cisternas' home.
Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol being involved. Investigators are now focusing on how fast the car was going when the crash took place.
Cisternas was taken to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown where he died three hours later. Jonathan and Lynn Buckley were taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, treated for injuries and released.
Witnesses are asked to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.
Janice Trucano, Cisternas' great-aunt, said he had turned 16 on Dec. 30 and just obtained his learner's permit. He liked to skateboard with his cousins, she said, and was very involved with his church group.
"A very sweet boy, a very thoughtful boy, very loving," said Trucano, 57. "A good kid. We are all just miserable about this."
Cisternas' youth minister at St. Thomas More, Joe Gast, said Cisterna had "won hearts" from the day he joined the church's youth group last year. Gast said Cisternas, who became one of the group's youth leaders, was "very spiritual."
"The kid was pure sunshine," said Gast, 37.
Cisternas was a sophomore at Smithtown West High School. Jonathan Buckley graduated from Hauppauge High School, where his sister Lynn is a junior. Both schools have made crisis counselors available for students.