They were best friends since kindergarten and lived a block apart in South Baltimore's Pigtown. One was feisty, the other shy. Monday night, they set off to meet an acquaintance, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
A car heading south struck Courtney Angeles, 16, and Emerald Smith, 17, at West Pratt Street and sped off without stopping, according to city police. The teens were rushed to nearby Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they died early Tuesday, nine minutes apart.
"You could never separate them two," said Courtney's sister, Stephanie Angeles.
On Tuesday, two groups of tearful family and friends gathered at the victims' rowhouses, one on James Street, the other a block away on Glyndon Avenue.
Outside Courtney's home, mostly young mourners smoked cigarettes to calm their nerves. At Emerald's house, parents with young children cried on the sidewalk. They recalled how close, and how different, the companions were.
As 18-year-old Angeles put it, when it came to Courtney and Emerald, "opposites attracted." Courtney was "feisty," she said, and Emerald was "more shy."
Police said the accident occurred about 11:40 p.m., just minutes after the teens had departed. They were hit while trying to cross the four southbound lanes of the divided thoroughfare. Police said the preliminary investigation shows they were in the crosswalk at West Pratt Street.
Angeles died at 12:10 a.m. and Smith at 12:19 a.m.
Detective Jeremy Silbert, a city police spokesman, said that shortly after the accident, Maryland Transportation Authority police stopped a car for an unrelated traffic infraction near BWI Airport. The officer noticed damage on the car and detained the occupants, Silbert said.
Baltimore police accident investigators have interviewed the suspects and are consulting with the Baltimore State's attorney's office before filing charges. Silbert also said the investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from red light cameras.
Randall Scott, traffic chief for Baltimore's Department of Transportation, said the intersection is not considered to be especially dangerous. He said the city has put in more visible street signs, installed red light and speed cameras and increased signal time for pedestrians to cross the wide street.
But Whitney Reed, who lives near Pratt and MLK and heard the crash as she was going to sleep, said car accidents and emergency vehicles with sirens blaring are commonplace in the area. "I didn't think anything of it," the 23-year-old said of the accident. "There was a lot of screaming."
News of Courtney and Emerald's death spread fast in the neighborhood near Carroll Park. By 3 a.m., Courtney's cousins Amanda Channell, 22, and Brittani Channell, 19, were in the car, heading up from their home in North Carolina to Baltimore.
They arrived at Courtney's home six hours later and immediately joined the streetside mourning for the girl they all agree, even though she was the youngest, was the leader among them. Smiles broke out as Amanda Channell recounted how, as a child, Courtney pooled their change and escorted them all on candy-buying trips to the local penny store.
"She did anything for anyone," said Amanda Channell. "That's why she was walking Emerald to meet her friend."
Courtney was bright, a gifted artist and loved reading, said Brittani Channell. She especially enjoyed vampire novels, she said.
"She was Team Edward," said Amanda Channell, explaining Courtney's preference for the vampire character over the teen werewolf in the popular Twilight series of books and movies. But it was Taylor Lautner, who played the werewolf, that "Courtney thought … was hot," she said.
Courtney attended Maritime Industries Academy High School and would have entered the 10th grade in the fall.
Emerald's mother, Mary Kay Smith, said that the two girls had been friends since kindergarten. "She was a very loving, caring person," Smith said of her daughter. "She had a heart as big as gold."
Smith said Emerald was inspired to help people, and long ago decided she was going to be a bone marrow donor.
"She wanted to give the gift of life if she could," Smith said. Doctors were studying her body for potential organ donation. "She's going to donate whatever she can donate," said Emerald's mother.
As people trickled out of their homes to give their condolences on Tuesday, the teens' families formed ad hoc receiving lines and exchanged hugs with neighbors.
"I'm still expecting to wake up from this bad dream," Smith said.
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