Crash that killed 2 Lakewood teens sparks widespread mourning, renewed calls for traffic safety

Fatal crash involving Lakewood teens sparks widespread mourning, renewed calls for traffic safety

LAKEWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - A pair of 2020 Lakewood High School graduates are being remembered throughout their community after the two 19-year-old men were killed in a crash early Sunday morning.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office identified them as Maximus Close and Alejandro Mercado.

Close worked at Taco Tontos in Lakewood; the restaurant has established an online fundraiser to assist his family.

In its message, the shop said Close was “a beloved member of our Taco Tontos family, and we want to help his family however we can at this unimaginable and painful time.”

The store has closed until Wednesday, citing the tragedy.

The owner told 19 News Close worked at the restaurant for at least two years, calling him the “sweetest kid.”

Citing respect for the family, he declined to be interviewed.

Mercado was a freshman at the University of Toledo, according to the online fundraiser established by his family.

“He hoped to gain knowledge to someday travel the world and help others. His life’s goal was to help underprivileged countries gain infrastructure to improve their quality of life. This loss is not only great to our family but the world. This kid was going to change things,” the family wrote.

Police said the crash occurred around 2:20 a.m. Sunday near Clifton Boulevard and Fry Avenue.

Officers found four people when they arrived at the crash, according to a release.

A 19-year-old driver and a 19-year-old passenger from one of the vehicles were pronounced dead on scene. Another passenger of that car was taken to Fairview Hospital for treatment.

EMS took the driver of a second vehicle to MetroHealth, according to a release.

It’s unclear what led to the crash or if drugs and/or alcohol played a factor.

As the investigation continues, city officials are hoping the incident sparks critical conversations about traffic safety.

“A lot of times there are wake up calls for public officials and communities,” said Lakewood City Council President Dan O’Malley. “We’re going to take this opportunity, tragic and horrific as it was, to think about ways that we can make our community safer.”

O’Malley said that particular stretch of Clifton Boulevard is filled with renters and businesses, which leads to street parking and reduced visibility, especially near intersections.

While there are ordinances on the books, O’Malley suggests the city will need to work harder to enforce those safety measures.

There’s no indication that those specific problems led directly to the fatal crash that killed Mercado and Close.

But O’Malley sees it as an opening to prevent further tragedies.

“Think about the impact they would have had on our community,” he said. “It’s just such a senseless loss.”

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