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2 killed in fiery crash along Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach

Nearby residents express dismay at sight, say car had been speeding
Posted at 8:53 PM, Jan 01, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A fatal crash in West Palm Beach caused an explosion that left two people dead just before the start of 2023.

The crash occurred minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve in the 2300 block of South Flagler Drive, along the West Palm Beach waterfront.

West Palm Beach police said James Cooke IV, 47, was driving a 2022 Lucid Air when he somehow lost control, traveling south in the northbound lane, hitting a palm tree and then crashing into a concrete wall on the corner of Flagler Drive and Granada Road.

"I stood there, and within one block it hit something and exploded," Barbara Ricke, who lives nearby, told WPTV. "Fire went up 30 feet (in the air)."

hole in concrete wall after fiery crash on Flagler Drive on New Year's Day 2023
A gaping hole could be seen in the concrete wall outside a home on the corner of South Flagler Drive and Granada Road on New Year's Day in West Palm Beach.

Cooke and his passenger, who was later identified as Catherine Kim, 52, of San Francisco, died at the scene.

"I've been to the Daytona 500, so I know the sound and I know that speed of which someone goes," Ricke said. "They were going that fast. … It was so out of control. I've never seen anything like it."

Another nearby resident said there was "really nothing left" of the car when he saw it.

"I came down from my house and, at that point, I could see that the car was totally destroyed," he said.

authorities inspect wreckage of fiery crash on Flagler Drive on New Year's Day 2023
Investigators and rescuers inspect the wreckage from a fiery crash on on New Year's Day along South Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.

Police believe speed and aggressive driving were contributing factors in the crash.

"What really breaks your heart is the fact that this could have been prevented, you know," West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said. "Now two people have died, their families are without their loved ones and on a holiday no less."

Toxicology reports are pending.

"I've never seen that in my lifetime, and I've lived here for a long time," one resident said.