Two Palo Alto teens die in crash near Bakersfield

Publication Date: Wednesday Aug 19, 1998

COMMUNITY: Two Palo Alto teens die in crash near Bakersfield

Trip to Disneyland turns tragic when car blows a tire, veers off road

by Charlie Breitrose and Elizabeth Lorenz

Friends and neighbors are mourning the loss of two Palo Alto teens who died on the way to Disneyland last week when the sport utility vehicle they were riding in veered out of control and crashed on Interstate 5 near Bakersfield.

On Monday, friends were still in shock over the deaths of Jeffrey Feriante, 14, who was pronounced dead Thursday at the scene of the accident, and Courtney McCoy, 17, who died later at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

The two were riding with Courtney's family and a friend of hers in the McCoys' sport utility vehicle when the accident occurred. The five other people in the car were injured in the accident, but only two remained hospitalized as of Monday.

Courtney's father, Charles McCoy, 46, was listed in fair condition Monday with four broken ribs at San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield. Courtney's friend, Erin Tracy, 16, was moved out of intensive care at Mercy Hospital. A spokeswoman said the family did not wish to release more information.

The other McCoy family members in the car were Courtney's mother, Karen McCoy, 47; her brother, Matthew McCoy, 14; and her grandmother, Tokie Kanazawa, 77.

Courtney, who was about to start her senior year at Palo Alto High School, was remembered Monday as a sweet and caring girl.

"Courtney helped take care of our pets when we went out of town," said Patti Hight, who lives around the corner from the McCoys' Midtown home. "We knew our animals and our house would be well taken care of when she was around."

Palo Alto High School teacher Esther Wojcicki said she was in shock when she read newspaper reports about the accident.

"She was an incredibly sweet young woman," Wojcicki said of Courtney. "She was always really friendly and super, super polite."

Jeffrey Feriante was invited by Matthew McCoy to join the family on the Disneyland trip. Another friend of Jeffrey's, John-Henry Snyder, said he was in disbelief when he received the news Thursday about Jeffrey's death.

"At first I thought someone was playing a really bad joke on me," said John-Henry, 15. "I couldn't even sleep that night."

Jeffrey was the first friend John-Henry made when he moved to Palo Alto 3 1/2 years ago. He said Jeffrey liked to go skateboarding or to the beach to do some body boarding.

"Overall, he was a great guy," John-Henry said. "He cared about other people first, before he thought of himself. And he treated his younger brothers like equals."

John-Henry helped spread the news of his friend's passing and of the planned memorial services. He said he spent at least four hours on the phone, calling 30 people, who in turn called their friends, to spread the word.

Hight said neighbors and those who know the McCoys through their Midtown photocopy and mail business, Exquisite Ex-press, were devastated by news of the accident.

The crash was the second serious accident involving Paly students in just the past four months. In April, a car carrying six seniors back from their prom flipped over on Highway 101 in Sunnyvale, injuring four, two seriously. One of the two students, Katie Conway, is still recovering from head and neck injuries.

The accident Thursday happened at 9:55 a.m., as the car was heading south on I-5 near Lost Hills Road, north of Bakersfield. The driver, Karen McCoy, lost control of the dark blue 1996 Chevrolet Suburban when the left rear tire blew out, said Officer Layne Logan of the Buttonwillow CHP office.

The car started to fishtail and veered off the highway into the dirt, crashed through a barbed-wire fence, rolled three times down an embankment, and landed on its side in an irrigation canal.

It was unclear whether others besides the driver were wearing seat belts, Logan said.

Memorial services for Feriante were to be held Tuesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Menlo Park. He was to be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Menlo Park.

Services for McCoy have not yet been planned. 

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