One of three young people who died in a fiery crash over the weekend was identified in reports as Jason Shmelnik, a
21 25-year-old who had performed as a youth on Dancing With the Stars' “Champion Kids” competition in 2007.
He was not driving when the BMW he was in careened out of control, reportedly hit trees and parking meters and ultimately severed a gas line as it smashed into Reno's Pizzeria on Ventura Boulevard in a fiery crash:
It was reported about 3:35 a.m., according to the L.A. Fire Department's Brian Humphrey, who said 52 firefighters took 23 minutes to put out the resulting pizzeria blaze.
The three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Acquaintances are reported to have said they were headed to an after-party or house party.
A friend named Violeta Vlasova told the station that there were concerns about the driver's level of intoxication and that his keys were requested to no avail before the three took off.
Friend Alexander Polansky told KTLA News that he felt “a lot of guilt because … I saw
that he was too drunk to drive.''
CBS2 ID'd the driver as Pavel “Pasha” Volodkovich; the third victim was identified as Ekaterina Botvinieva, who had come to L.A. from New York for the party.
Cops were investigating the crash and toxicology tests on the driver could take weeks.
Vlasova and others mourned the death of Shmelnik. A vigil was head last night at the crash scene. She told CBS2 he “was a great dancer.”
rip jason shmelnik.. u could always make anything fun 3 so devastating.
— Elizabeth Khavkin (@russian4lyfe) September 10, 2012
[Correction at 12:19 p.m.]: A reader emailed to say the party at Romanov wasn't to celebrate Shmelnik's birthday but rather that of a female in the group. That seems to correspond to coroner's information that Shmelnik is 25, not 21.