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Hundreds Mourn Teens Killed When Driver Jumped Curb In North Bergen

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Crowds gathered in mourning on the boundary of North Bergen and Union City Monday, two days after police said a car jumped a curb and mowed down two teenagers as they walked home from a party over the weekend.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, the heartbroken family and friends released balloons into the air in honor of the victims on Monday afternoon.

So heartbreaking...Friends of the two teens killed in North Bergen leaving candles at the crash site. Noel Herrara and Brian Rodriguez both died from the impact of a car plowing into them. The driver is in custody. CBS New York

Posted by Janelle Burrell on Monday, March 7, 2016

Best friends Noel Herrera, 16, an eighth grader at Cliffside Park Middle School, and Bryan Rodriguez, 17, a sophomore at Union City High School, were struck and killed on John F. Kennedy Boulevard near 26th Street around 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

The scene is just across from Union City High School.

The teens' grief stricken parents were at the scene of the deadly accident on Monday. Herrera's mother Sandra was so overcome with grief that she had to be taken away on a stretcher from the site where her son died.

Rodriguez's mother was inconsolable as she arrived at the vigil.

Sandra said Sunday that she had spoken to her son just minutes before the crash, and he said, "Mom, we love you." Herrera had said police told her a drunken driver was responsible for her son's death, though police have not confirmed the information.

As 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported, the driver, identified as Eric Patterson, 23, of Jersey City, was charged with death by auto, assault by auto, speeding, reckless driving and driving with a suspended license, the Hudson County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

Preliminary evidence suggests Patterson was driving 74 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to the sheriff's office.

"People need to slow down," North Bergen Police Chief Robert Dowd told WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron. "This is not a state highway where people can transverse the roadway at excessive speeds."

Eric Patterson mugshot
Eric Patterson mugshot

Patterson's license was suspended in 2012 and he has a history of speeding and unsafe driving, according to the sheriff's office.

Toxicology tests are still pending. It is unclear if he was drunk but phone use is not believed to be a factor, authorities said.

"The devastation that we witnessed first hand without a doubt, if not the worst accident scene that I've seen in my entire career," Dowd said.

Another teen was also injured in the crash. Manuel Sanchez, 16, of Union City sustained a broken leg and is expected to make a full recovery.

Doctors spent the past two days treating Sanchez's injuries and stabilizing him.

Witness Victor Sanchez said memories of the accident left him traumatized.

"I never seen anything like this before in my life. I wish nobody would go through what I'm going through because I'm traumatized right now. When I close my eyes I can see these two teens dead on the ground," Sanchez said.

Debris from the accident was still scattered along the sidewalk where friends and family paid tribute to the lives that were lost.

"It's devastating, it's breaking, everybody's heart is broken and nobody would have ever expected this to happen," Kris Barzola said.

Hundreds of students paused at the memorial of cards, candles and balloons at the scene of the crash just yards from the high school before heading into class Monday.

"These kids were loved in the city...these kids were loved every day," Jahsiah Negron, a junior at Union City High School, said.

"I still can't believe that he's gone, I just saw him the day that he passed away," sophomore Lidiana Batista said. "I didn't think that this was going to happen, it could've been any of us."

Kennedy Boulevard is notorious for speeding, and police have asked the public for help.

"Please, the residents out there, to the motorists out there, these lives were tragically lost by a senseless act," Union City Police Chief, Richard Molinari said.

So the teens and others might never have to deal with such a tragedy again.

Grief counselors were on hand at both schools Monday.

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