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4 injured as car leaves Scajaquada, hits Niagara Street

A car careened off the edge of the Scajaquada Expressway on Saturday night, plummeting 35 to 40 feet to Niagara Street below and trapping four young people inside.

The car was westbound on the Scajaquada at about 9:20 p.m. Saturday when the crash occurred where Route 198 splits into the Niagara Thruway, directly over Niagara Street.

"The car just dropped off," said Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman. "Initial indications are that possibly the car was traveling right on the wall for about a quarter-mile. Investigators are looking at the possibility of speed involved."

Four people were taken to Erie County Medical Center, DeGeorge said. At least two were listed in critical condition Saturday.

Eli Casillas, 27, one of the first on the scene, was stopped at a signal at the Niagara Street-Tonawanda Street split when he watched the crash unfold. First he heard a loud noise of the car scraping the side of the Scajaquada. Then, he saw sparks shooting out.

The car went over the edge of the Scajaquada and crashed onto Niagara Street below, coming to rest on the side of the street beneath Route 198. A light pole from the Scajaquada came crashing down right next to Niagara.

"They were up on the 198 and struck a light pole," DeGeorge said. "Thankfully, when it fell, it fell to the ground, just missing Niagara Street. It landed on the sidewalk area. That could have injured more had it landed on Niagara Street."

Casillas was talking to his son's mother on the phone.

"I got to go," he told her. "Something happened."

He pulled over in his Chevy Tahoe and ran to the mangled vehicle.

He called to the people inside.

"Is anyone in there?" he said.

Yes, someone called back. There were four people inside -- three 18-year-old men and a 14-year-old girl, he said, adding that the victims were begging for him to free them from the wreckage.

"I just kept talking to them," said Casillas, who was on his way home from work as a foreman for a landscaping company when the crash occurred. "I didn't want to yank them out and maybe hurt them more than they already were."

One of the crash victims crawled out on his own, Casillas said. A crowd began to gather, and rescue crews were on the scene in minutes to extract the other three trapped inside.

"I was just shocked," Casillas said. "My first reaction was to go over there and make sure everyone was alive."

email: jrey@buffnews.com