This story was reported by John Asbury, Matthew Chayes, Joan Gralla, Bart Jones and Gregg Sarra. It was written by Chayes.
A Smithtown girl was killed and three teenagers from Kings Park and one from Commack were injured when the Mustang convertible one of them was driving collided with a Jeep Wrangler on Wednesday in Commack, officials said.
The girl was identified as 17-year-old Isabel Carella.
At the time of the crash, the Mustang's roof was down, and one of the teens riding in the back without a seat belt was ejected as the car flipped over, said Det. Lt. Michael Crowley, who is in charge of the Suffolk County Police Department's Fourth Squad detectives, who are investigating the crash.
At a news conference Thursday, Crowley described a harrowing scene in which the vehicle carrying the four high school students was being driven down a busy road in Commack about 3:45 p.m. when the driver suddenly swerved and lost control.
“The Mustang swerved to avoid an uninvolved vehicle which was slowing in front of him,” Crowley said, explaining that the driver of the vehicle in front appeared to be making a right turn onto another street.
“The operator of the Mustang lost control, crossed over into opposing lanes of traffic and collided with the southbound Jeep in the right lane,” he said. “The Mustang then spun out of control, overturned and came to rest upright on the rear lawn of a residence at 15 Ramsey Road in Commack.”
Carella was declared dead at the site. The Mustang's driver, Dominic Crocitto, 17, of Kings Park, suffered serious injuries, as did a second passenger, Joseph Gibiino, 16, of Kings Park, who was ejected.
The Mustang's third passenger, Liam Feeley, 17, of Kings Park, and the teen driving the 2015 Jeep, Annalise Wilkes, 19, of Commack, both suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.
Feeley was treated and released from South Shore University Hospital; Wilkes was treated at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip and released, Crowley said.
Crowley said there was no immediate indication of criminality, including speeding or use of alcohol or drugs by the Mustang’s driver.
“The preliminary cause of the crash appears to be distraction on the part of the operator of the Mustang, but we have no evidence to indicate that speed was a factor at this time,” Crowley said.
Crocitto “took evasive action and lost control and then crossed into the opposing lanes,” he said.
The top of the Mustang “appeared to be down at the time of the incident,” Crowley said. “The vehicle overturned but it righted itself when it came to a rest and we just had one ejection.”
It was not clear where the students were coming from, Crowley said. He noted that Wednesday apparently was an exam day at Kings Park High School and the students may have been dismissed early.
On Wednesday, Kings Park schools superintendent Timothy Eagen said in a letter posted to the district website that the four teens were one senior and three juniors.
Carella was a member of the varsity kickline team and Crocitto and Feeley are on the track and field team, according to the high school's athletics, Bill Denniston.
In an email, Smithtown Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo said Carella's death was "a painful loss for Kings Park. We live in a small quaint town, where we know our business owners, our neighbors, and we know the children growing up here. … Isabel’s loss, has hit the heart of every Kings Parker."
Inzerillo said her daughters had known Carella since elementary school.
"Her kindness and beautiful smile is what they will remember most," she said.
The Mustang was being driven north on Indian Head Road when it hit the Jeep, which was traveling south near Carldon Road, police said.
Tire tracks off Indian Head Road remained in the front yard of a home where the Mustang crashed backward through a chain-link fence Wednesday afternoon.
The homeowner where the car came to stop, Lawrence Rubin, said he was napping when he heard a loud boom, went to his window and saw the mangled car sitting in his backyard. He said he heard moaning from the car and called 911.
Carella has danced for the past two years at the Sara Jean Dance Company in Smithtown on West Jericho Turnpike.
Her fellow dancers gathered Wednesday as alarming text messages and phone calls kept coming in.
"Everyone just started getting information here there, here there, and then all the dots connected, and we ended up sitting in the big dance studio room in silence — just everyone took a corner, took a wall, sitting there just not even understanding," said Sara Jean Haas, 24, the studio owner.
And the girls were all crying, "and just in shock."
During her time with the studio, Isabel would dance in group routines (she was on "The Elite Team") and did a solo this year, the “Fox Mambo.” Her favorite: musical theater. She would compete across Long Island.
"She was a confident dancer, but she was humble, even though she had very good abilities," Haas said.
Haas’ had written a letter that she had planned to deliver to Isabel.
In a sealed pink envelope, Haas had written: "Your talent is truly limitless. I believe you can achieve anything you put your mind to. You and your mom have been so endlessly kind. Thank you for choosing to spend your last few years of studio dancing with us at SJDC."
Correction: Mustang passenger Liam Feeley was treated at South Shore University Hospital. An earlier version of this story gave an outdated name for the hospital.