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UPDATE: 3 Die in Fiery Car Accident on Ventura Boulevard

The victims were celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.

A BMW travelling at a high rate of speed down Ventura Boulevard in Studio City early Sunday morning smashed into a pizzeria and was engulfed in flames, killing the car's three occupants, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Police and fire officials believe the driver may have been drunk after celebrating a friend's 21st birthday party at nearby , which is west of the crash site and also on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. The victims were two men and a woman, all in their 20s.

"My understanding was that the driver was impaired, I don't know that for sure," Battalion Chief Daniel McCarty of the LAFD told Patch. "Witnesses in another car described the vehicle as travelling at a high rate of speed."

A friend of the crash victims, Alexander Polansky, told KTLA he felt "a lot of guilt because I ... because I saw that he was too drunk to drive. Something inside of me said... he's an adult, he'll get there, but the result is very unfortunate that he didn't."

The BMW was travelling east down Ventura Boulevard when the crash occurred about 3:35 a.m., according to the LAFD. The car hit a tree and sheared a natural gas line before smashing into at 11412 Ventura Blvd. The car was quickly engulfed in flames, according McCarty, who added the three victims likely survived the crash but perished in the fire.

"Right as it hit the restaurant, it also sheared off the gas main that feeds this building," said McCarty. "A fire ensued, and that fire was rapidly fed by the gas line. The three people in the vehicle perished in the fire. They obviously suffered injuries from the accident, but I believe it may have been a survivable accident if it hadn't been for the fire."

The Los Angeles Coroner's office identified one of the victims as Jason Shmelnik of Los Angeles, and media outlets and people who visited the site said that the others were Pavel Volodkovich (known as Pasha), also of Los Angeles, and Ekaterina Botvinieva, who was visiting from New York. Volodkovich was identified as the driver.

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tom masto September 17, 2012 at 08:38 AM
have the toxicology reports been released? we don't know for sure if he was drunk, the crash happened at 3:35 am its the law to stop serving alcohol at 2 am actually 1:45 am. so his friend told him he was too drunk to drive, its possible he waited to sober up before he got behind the wheel. myself i don't drink and drive, but i bought a mbz and i like to see what it can do occasionally. maybe we should crack down on the automakers, or wait, how about speed bumps every 1000 feet throughout California. Perhaps testosterone got the best of him. One thing is for sure though, people perished, victims families have had their hearts torn out of them, their heads are still spinning, and i think its only appropriate to at least wait till that stops, before leaving negative comments
Skraeling September 17, 2012 at 09:52 PM
They brought it upon themselves and did not care one whit if they endangered others...just 3 fewer idiots on the roads...This isn't Moscow...
John September 18, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Welcome to Studio City. Feel free to get drunk, and speed through my neighborhood. Assholes.
Alex Gubin September 18, 2012 at 03:31 AM
This isn't Moscow?! What, Americans never drive drunk? And the passengers, did they bring it upon themselves too? I wish I could smack you right across your ignorant mouth!
Cerjio Almaraz September 26, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Dani, I am sorry for the lost of your family member and the 2 other friends. Its something we have to live with, and learn from. I would like to see if I can help these families to start their recovery from this horrible accident. Please feel free to contact me at cerjioalmaraz@yahoo.com. Help me help those during this time.

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