"I heard this big bang," said hot dog vendor John Luhrs. "I wasn't sure what it was. I poked my head out the door and I saw it was a bad automobile accident."
Luhrs was just down the road from where 17-year-old Jamie Nicholson and her 15-year-old sister, Francesca, were killed Tuesday evening in a horrible head-on collision.
"This is a terrible tragedy," said Linda Wood, manager of the Jackson Deli, "and I can't imagine what the parents are going through now."
It was 5:17 p.m. and South Hope Chapel Road was wet when police say Jamie Nicholson lost control of the Mercedes Benz she was driving, crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a minivan driven by a 47-year-old Toms River man who was not seriously hurt.
"Our Traffic Safety Unit is looking into the wet road conditions as well as possible excessive speed as being a contributing factor," said Jackson Township Police Sergeant Chris Parise.
Jamie, a senior, took most of her classes at MATES, the maritime magnet school in Manahawkin. Francesca was a junior, and both girls were active in the Jaguar marching band, Jamie in the color guard, Francesca in the flag line.
"It was a very somber day as you can imagine at Jackson Memorial High School," said principal Kevin DiEugenio. "This is a difficult event, particularly the popularity of the students. They're very popular students."
Crisis response teams were brought in to deal with grieving students as they, and the community, come to grips with this double tragedy.
"It's a shame," said Mario Maniglia of Maurizio's Pizza Shop. "They didn't even start their lives yet. It's a shame."