This story was reported by Anthony M. DeStefano, Kevin Deutsch, Darran Simon and Ellen Yan. It was written by Deutsch.
Police are investigating whether excessive speed was behind a grisly early morning crash Wednesday on the Long Island Expressway in Queens that sheared a car in half, leaving three young people dead — including two Long Islanders.
The NYPD said Giovanny Sanchez of Brentwood and Christina Formato of Franklin Square, both 24, were riding in the back seat of a 2010 Infiniti at about 4:20 a.m., when the vehicle slammed into a barrier at the Maurice Avenue exit in Maspeth.
Police said it appeared the driver of the Infiniti, 25-year-old Oakland Gardens man Michael Fabre, had been traveling at “an apparent high rate of speed” when he “lost control of his vehicle.”
The impact severed the sedan, sending the mangled front end flying onto the roadway below, according to police.
Sanchez, Formato and Fabre all were pronounced dead at the scene, police said, while two other unidentified passengers in the car — both from Franklin Square — were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center.
One, a 22-year-old woman, was listed in critical condition, while the other, a 23-year-old woman, was in stable condition, police said Thursday morning.
The deaths left the victims’ friends and family reeling in the hours after the crash.
Elizabeth Esposito of Franklin Square, who said she was a friend of both Sanchez and Formato, said the group had been traveling home from a friend’s birthday party at Bar Nine in the Chelsea district of Manhattan at the time of the crash.
Esposito said she had been planning to attend, too, but decided against it after worrying about how to get home.
She said she had texted back and forth with Formato before the crash.
“I texted her, ‘Where are you going to stay if you guys can’t drive?’” a tearful Esposito said. “She said, ‘We’re not going to stay that late.’ But they stayed out until 4 and ... now they’re gone.”
She said both of the victims were “amazing people.”
Sanchez, she said, had been a high school athlete, full of charisma and always ready with a smile.
“He was always there for you when you needed him. He was such a great spirit,” Esposito said. “He leaves a huge hole in the world.”
On Wednesday, Sanchez’s relatives gathered at a family house in Selden, where a man who would only identify himself as Sanchez’s brother said he wasn’t ready to speak.
Mourners gathered at Formato’s Franklin Square home on Wednesday, embracing each other and remembering the woman one relative described as “the sweetest thing on Earth.”
“She was very sweet,” said a cousin, Lorraine Sima. “You couldn’t ask for better.”
Donna Irwin, administrator for the executive board of the Nassau County Police Activity League, said Formato worked as a trustee there for over two years, volunteering and running summer programs for at-risk youth.
“She was literally an inspiration to hundreds of kids,” Irwin said, adding she was “devastated” by the news. “She was always there to comfort the children, always going above and beyond.”
Irwin said Formato was preparing to go back to college.
“She was very happy, very outgoing,” she said.
At Fabre’s family home in Oakland Gardens on Wednesday, relatives and friends sat in the front yard, comforting themselves with memories of the Army National Guardsman who had been waiting to go to Iraq.
When he came home on leave, Fabre was the light of family gatherings, relatives said.
“He was just passionate dedicated and proud,” said his cousin, Katherine Henriquez, 22, of Brooklyn.
Fabre’s girlfriend, Bianca Sagliocca of Bayside, found out on Wednesday that Fabre had been planning to propose to her in December, her father said at the Oakland Gardens house.
Franco Sagliocca said Fabre had recently asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
“I told him I was proud to have him as a son,” the Bayside man said.
Fabre’s father, Ismael Fabre, said when authorities called him after the crash Wednesday, he initially thought the bad news was a military-related tragedy.
“I thought something happened to him with the bullet or something,” Ismael Fabre said. “When they told me it was a car crash, I thought ‘he’s alive.’ Right after I found out what happened, I can’t believe it.
“He was a good driver,” he added. “If he loved to drive fast, I have no idea.”
In addition to the deaths, Wednesday’s crash caused a chain reaction of collisions that resulted in several injuries, the NYPD said.
The front end of the Infiniti landed in the eastbound lower roadway of the LIE, where it was struck by a 2012 Acura TL, police said. The Acura’s driver, who police identified as a 27-year-old man, received minor injuries and declined medical treatment.
Meanwhile, a 2015 Kenworth dump truck encountering the accident scene on the lower roadway was unable to brake in time, colliding with five other vehicles that had stopped where the front of the Infiniti had fallen, according to police.
That crash caused several injuries, but all of the occupants involved were in stable condition Wednesday, police said.
The NYPD Collision Investigation Squad was continuing to examine the crash.