Sheriff: 3 Teen Car Thieves Die in Fiery Crash

Palm Harbor, Fla. (970 WFLA) - Three teenage car thieves died in a fiery crash early Sunday, police said. The stolen Ford Explorer reached speeds exceeding 100 mph before it spun out of control at the intersection of US-19 and Tampa Road at about 4:30 a.m.

"The car was literally spinning and rolling down Tampa Road and it burst into flames," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference near the scene.

Minutes earlier, a sheriff's deputy had spotted the stolen SUV as well as a missing Chrysler Sebring traveling together. The deputy let the SUV go when it sped away and the car slowed down. Deputies don't chase stolen cars as a matter of policy, Gualtieri said, and the deputy had turned around to stop the Sebring at the time of the crash.

The sheriff sounded exasperated as he recounted how teenagers stealing cars and joyriding in them dangerously happens on a nearly daily basis in the county depsite numerous law enforcement efforts to combat the problem, and called on the teens and their families to do more to make it stop. 

One of the teens killed Sunday "got out of juvenile detention July 31, stole a car August 3, and this morning he's dead," Gualtieri said.

The crash also damaged another car, but its driver suffered only minor injuries. The investigation and crash cleanup kept the intersection of US-19 and Tampa Road closed for more than six hours. 

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