It took a split second for the little Ford Escort GT racing down Old Court Road Friday night to skid out of control and into a tree, a split second for two local families to lose teen-age sons.
"Every moment with a child is precious; make it last and make it count," said Jules Morstein Jr., whose 15-year-old son, Eric, was killed instantly along with the driver of the Ford, Alexander Ward Semel, a 17-year-old junior at the Gilman School.
"Here were two good boys in the wrong place at the wrong time. People should remember how fragile life is and that you have to appreciate every moment because there is no rhyme or reason (( to these things. It can change in an instant."
Eric Morstein, a scrappy, competitive youth who made excellent grades, would have been a junior at Pikesville Senior High School next year.
His good friend Alex Semel received the sporty blue Escort about a month ago as a gift from his family, a close friend and classmate said.
"I just saw him [Friday] morning before our history exam. . . . You won't find a better human being than Alex -- he had so much life in him," said Edward "Ben" Jones, a Gilman student who had known Alex since the third grade. "He played guitar and was president of the guitar club, and he was very involved in his friendships."
Police investigating the 6:30 p.m. crash said Alex Semel was driving "a great deal over the [posted] speed limit" of 35 mph while approaching a curve on Old Court Road headed toward Greenspring Avenue.
The road curved left, and as the Escort made the turn, Alex lost control and began skidding, police said.
They said the car skidded 265 feet before running off the left side of the road, where the middle of the passenger's side hit a tree.
Alex and Eric were wearing seat belts and were not thrown from the car. But the impact of the crash forced the Escort to wrap almost completely around the tree.
"It was bent like a horseshoe, the back almost touching the front," said one traffic investigator, who said the boys were declared dead at the scene from internal injuries. Police said alcohol was not involved in the accident and attributed the crash solely to speeding.
The Semel family could not be reached for comment last night.
Jules and Randi Morstein, who live on Penny Lane in Mount Washington with their oldest son, Terry, received visitors who brought sympathy and flowers.
"Eric was a wonderful son, a wonderful friend," said Mr. Morstein. "He loved sports and computers and had a lot of friends and a good sense of humor. Alex was one of his best friends; they were close. Here's a boy that was nothing but a pleasure to his mother and father, a happy kid from morning to night."
Mr. Morstein said his son was the kind of young man who was a natural at baseball but got it in his head that he would be a football player as well, even though, at 5 feet 10 inches and 135 pounds, he wasn't exactly built for the rough game.
"He was the smallest player on the [junior varsity] team and he never got into a game," Mr. Morstein said. "But he went to every practice and he never gave up. This was a kid who could focus on anything and be successful at it. He could have written his own ticket."
Services for Eric Horne Morstein will be held 11 a.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home, 6010 Reisterstown Road. Services for Alexander Semel will be at 4 p.m. today at the same funeral home.