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17-year-old dead, 2 arrested, possibly 2 missing after stolen car crashes into Martin County river

Vehicle stolen in Boynton Beach crashes at intersection of SW Kanner Highway and SE Cove Road
Martin County sheriff's deputies scour the St. Lucie River after a stolen car crashed into a canal near Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road on May 7, 2024.
Posted at 10:11 AM, May 07, 2024

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — One teen is dead, two other teens are in custody and possibly two others are missing, after a car that was stolen overnight in Boynton Beach crashed into a river in Martin County, authorities said.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office said possibly five people were in the vehicle when it crashed early Tuesday morning in the area of Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road.

During a news conference, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said deputies were first alerted to the stolen vehicle at 12:39 a.m. on High Meadows Avenue in Palm City.

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Snyder said deputies on the ground did not pursue the car, a late-model Mazda sedan, but their helicopter followed the vehicle. The sheriff said the car was traveling at a high rate of speed and didn't have its lights on as it navigated multiple streets through the county.

"Through this entire incident, there were no police blue or red lights activated," Snyder said. "We were following that vehicle from the air. ... That car could not have known that aviation was overhead."

Despite this, Snyder said the vehicle continued at a high rate of speed, "blowing [through] one light after another."

A stolen car crashed into a canal in the area of Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road on May 7, 2024 (1).jpg
A stolen car crashed into a canal in the area of Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road on May 7, 2024.

At one point, a deputy in the area saw the driver of the stolen vehicle turn at a high rate of speed from southbound U.S. Highway 1 onto Cove Road but took the turn so quickly the car was going westbound in the eastbound lane.

Snyder said the deputy then activated his lights to warn any drivers that there was a wrong-way driver traveling in the wrong lane.

"The vehicle did not stop at all," Snyder said.

The sheriff said since the vehicle didn't stop, the deputy turned their lights off and allowed their helicopter to continue to follow the vehicle, which continued speeding west on Cove Road.

Snyder said they had deputies stationed at the intersection with Gaines Avenue where they deployed a tire deflation device, which the sheriff said he believes the vehicle hit.

The vehicle continued west at a short distance but instead of turning left on Kanner Highway toward Interstate 95, the vehicle went straight through an intersection, plowing through trees and into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.

WATCH BELOW: Sheriff's office helicopter tracks stolen vehicle

Martin County Sheriff's Office helicopter tracks stolen vehicle before plunging into river

The car then became submerged in the waterway.

"In six minutes, this vehicle traveled 11 miles," Snyder said.

Snyder said two occupants, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, got out of the car, were rescued by deputies and taken into custody.

"Our units helped them out of the water. We actually deployed a rope to get them out of the water, save their lives," Snyder said. "One of them was wearing a ski mask."

The sheriff said video indicates that there is a third suspect, but that person has not been located. However, Snyder said the arrested teens said there were five people in the vehicle.

A fire rescue dive team, working in the dark, said one body was recovered from the submerged car, which was identified as a 17-year-old boy from Boynton Beach.

"They have extensive training for this environment, but it is challenging because they have a hard time with the depth of the water, with what is actually in the water," Martin County Fire Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli said.

Snyder said it's possible that three people in total may have drowned or two people got away or one additional person drowned and one got away.

"We have unreliable suspects. Who knows, they could be lying to us," Snyder said.

Martin County sheriff's deputies scour the St. Lucie River after a stolen car crashed into a canal near Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road on May 7, 2024.
Martin County sheriff's deputies scour the St. Lucie River after a stolen car crashed into a canal near Southwest Kanner Highway and Southeast Cove Road on May 7, 2024.

Throughout the day, marine unit boats went up and down the river banks while deputies sometimes climbed into docked vessels to see if anyone was hiding on board.

"It's only by the grace of God that an innocent person wasn't killed," Snyder said.

The sheriff's office said the names of those involved have not been released.