A passenger in a horrific crash early Saturday morning that killed two Palestine students told the Herald-Press Monday the driver, Miguel Morales-Ochoa, 17, of Palestine, was not negligent.

“It was in no way his (Morales-Ochoa's) fault,'' Trina Bambeck, 18, of Palestine, told the Herald-Press Monday. “It was an accident. There's nothing he could have done to prevent what happened.”

Bambeck also said the two brothers who died in the crash, Luis, 17; and Javier Sardina, 14, of Palestine; were fun, loving, accepting, and sweet.

No drugs or alcohol were involved in the one-car rollover, Bambeck said. All four wore seat belts.

Bambeck was in the front passenger seat; the Sardina brothers were in the back, when the 2005 Nissan Altima left the road and crashed into a tree on CR-136, a half mile west of Elkhart. After flipping onto its top, the vehicle caught fire.

“We weren't speeding, or going exceptionally fast, that I could tell,” Bambeck said.

As the vehicle neared the curve/turn, Bambeck said she saw pine needles, causing the car to skid, or slide. Morales-Ochoa tried to steer out of the slide, she said, and the car started to roll.

Bambeck never lost consciousness, but Morales-Ochoa did. When the car stopped, the two were pinned by their seat belts, she said. Bambeck said she couldn't get out of the car.

She said she could not really see the Sardina brothers. They were behind her but also hanging upside down inside the vehicle.

When Morales-Ochoa regained consciousness, he was able to get out of his seat belt and help her get out of hers. Outside the car, they both tried to get the Sardina brothers out.

“We were trying to get them out of the car, when (first responders) arrived and told us to get away,” Bambeck said. “You could hear a popping sound. Then the car burst into flames.”

Bambeck said she recently moved out on her own, and the four hung out this summer, driving around and listening to Mexican music, or just chilling. 

Bambeck has been dating Morales-Ochoa for two months, and met the Sardina brothers through him.

“These were my best friends,” she said. “I loved that they were really accepting of everyone. They helped me get through a really tough time.”

Bambeck said Morales-Ochoa, who remained hospitalized Monday, suffered from a broken jaw, a broken collar bone, one burned foot, and one sprained foot.

He had surgery on his jaw and was scheduled to leave the hospital Monday, but was held a few more days for observation, due to his broken collar bone.

Bambeck said the brothers were really into cars and trucks. She also recalled that Javier loved a song, entitled “Una Flor,” which they often sang together when hanging out.

Of Morales-Ochoa, Bambeck said, “He's really sweet, nice to everyone, which I don't always understand because some people get on my nerves. But he's always good to people, and always there for his friends.”

Bambeck graduated from Elkhart High School in May and plans to attend Tyler Junior College in fall to earn a degree in physical therapy.

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