Community Raises Money to Extend Highway 35 Guard Rail in Wake of Crash That Killed Three Teens in San Mateo County

Two of the three men belonged to the Menlo Park Fire Explorers program.

The families of three teenagers who were killed when their car plunged down an embankment off Skyline Boulevard in unincorporated San Mateo County on Halloween are raising funds to extend a guard rail along the road where the crash occurred.

The three close friends who died in the crash were identified as Matthew Cruz, 18, of Redwood City; Andrew Gonzales, 18, of Menlo Park; and Ricardo "Ricky" Torres, 19, of Redwood City. Of them, two belonged to Fire Explorer Post 109, sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire District, and one was the oldest son of the Fire District's master mechanic, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

According to a GoFundMe site, "From visiting the site where the accident occured and sorting through all of the emotions, the families of these boys want to do something to help prevent further loss to other families."

The goal, the fundraising site said, is to raise $50,000 for a guard rail along Highway 35 that might have saved the boys' lives. So far, $300 have been donated.

The idea originated with Gary Cruz, Matthews' father, not wanting anyone else to experience the heartbreak he and his family are now living with. Cruz has the support of the other slain teens' families.

"He knows this is just one small strip of roadway but he believes every bit helps and it will give him comfort if it could save a life in the future," the GoFundMe site said.

The donated funds, the website continued, will be used to "coordinate with CalTrans, County of San Mateo and the local community to bring this change and extend the guard rail around this bend in the (highway)."

Explorer Steven Effesimo
Fire Explorers Andrew Gonzales (left) and Ricky Torres (Right) at a recent open house at Fire Station 1. (Nov. 3, 2017)

The teenagers were traveling in a 2010 Hyundai during the fatal crash.

When they were missing on Wednesday morning, Rudy Torres, the Fire District's master mechanic and Ricky Torres' father; Gary Cruz, father of Matthew Cruz; and Jason Perez, Andrew Gonzales' brother, searched for them, Schapelhouman said.

They found the boys about 50 feet down the embankment. The vehicle's roof was crushed.

The three relatives kept vigil until Cal Fire, San Mateo County Fire, Woodside and Menlo Park Fire, the California Highway Patrol and the San Mateo County coroner's office arrived, Schapelhouman said.

Matthew Cruz was interested in computers and programming, and attended kindergarten with Ricky and high school with Andrew. The three friends were always together, Schapelhouman said.

Explorer Steven Effesimo
Fire Explorer Andrew Gonzales (Right) is shown how to use a metal cutting saw by Firefighter/Engineer Eric Mijangos (left) Coordinator for Fire Explorer Post 109
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