AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- Police in Aurora investigated a deadly rollover crash that left one vehicle engulfed in flames early Saturday morning. The crash kept a portion of Interstate 225 and Interstate 70 closed for several hours.
"It doesn't seem real," said Lesley Madrigal, a cousin of the victims.
The crash happened about 4:35 a.m. northbound I-225 and westbound I-70 in Aurora. All three occupants were related.
When police arrived they found Juan Manuel Cardenas Jr., 25, who had been ejected from the vehicle, a red 1999 Isuzu Trooper. He told police he had been sitting in the back seat. He was rushed to the University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Cardenas told police that his cousin, Hadzigebich (Hadzi) Cosio-Virgen, 25, was driving the vehicle. His other cousin, Jorge Luis Virgen, 25, was sitting in the front passenger seat. Cardenas was sitting directly behind the driver at the time of the crash.
Police believe the Isuzu was traveling northbound on I-225 and approaching the westbound I-70 ramp at a high rate of speed. The vehicle lost control, went off the highway and began to roll over numerous times.
Cardenas was ejected but the driver, Cosio-Virgen, and Virgen, remained inside the SUV. Police said the fuel tank ignited and the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames.
Aurora Firefighters rushed to extinguish the fire. Both Cosio-Virgen and Virgen inside the SUV died.
Cardenas told police they been working together in the oil fields near Raymer, north of Fort Morgan, at 3:30 a.m. Friday. After work they drove back to the Denver area and went to a local restaurant for dinner with family. After dinner they drove to a cousin's house and hung out until 4 a.m. or so.
Madrigal said she had no idea that Friday night at dinner would be the last time she ever saw her cousins Hadzi and Jorge, alive.
"They're so young. They had a whole life ahead of them. They had families who love them and will miss them dearly," said Madrigal.
They were on their way home in north Denver with Cardenas in the back seat sleeping, when he heard someone scream, "Watch out!" and Cardenas was ejected from the back set when it rolled over.
He saw the SUV on fire and tried to save his cousins from the burning vehicle, along with others who showed up, but the flames were too intense.
Several witnesses and passersby stopped to help after the crash. One witness told police she was driving northbound on I-225 when the SUV passed her at more than 80 mph. An off-duty state trooper, along with another gentleman, exited their vehicles and ran to the burning Isuzu. A FEDEX truck driver also stopped, grabbing a fire extinguisher from his truck. All tried to save the two victims inside but they couldn't reach them as the flames were too much. Shortly after they backed away from the burning SUV, it exploded.
Police do not believe Cosio-Virgen was intoxicated as both Cardenas and family members claim he is not a drinker. Police believe sleep deprivation combined with a high rate of speed were the main factors in the fiery crash. Investigators believe the SUV simply drove off the highway. They don't believe seatbelts were worn by the occupants.
Northbound traffic on I-225 was diverted to eastbound I-70. The area was reopened to traffic at 10:10 a.m. on Saturday.
Police in Aurora are concerned about the increase in the number of traffic deaths. Police have seen 15 vehicle collision-related deaths so far this year compared with 19 deaths for all of last year.
"So if we continue on this trend that we're going right now, we could actually triple our numbers," said Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz.
for more features.