CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. -- Two cousins were killed and two people were critically injured after a wreck in Caldwell County early Sunday morning.

Carmelo Vazquez, 20, and Bartolome Romero, 23, died when the Honda Prelude they were riding in swerved off Mission Road north of Hickory and hit a tree. Both were in the back seat.

The driver, Cruz Tax, 29, and front passenger Jose Flores, 28, were critically injured.

Troopers say speed was a factor in the crash.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Roger Smith said all four men were wearing seat belts, but the crash was too violent.

On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10, said Trooper Troy Stutts.

A mess, is how neighbor Teresa Goble described it. The crash happened about 200 yards from her house.

They were out having a good time and never thought in a million years that they'd end up like this, she said. It's just a sad situation.

Troopers believe the men crashed around 4 a.m., but weren t discovered until about 6:30, when Tax climbed from the car and walked to a neighbor s house for help.

He was bloody. He looked like he had been in a knife fight, Goble said her neighbor told her.

Marks on the pavement show the car veered off the right shoulder, overcorrected, then went off the left shoulder, swerved back, went off the right shoulder again, then finally went off the left side of the road. It rode down the embankment into a tree and ended up on its side near Wither Road.

Sunday night, Vazquez s and Romero s family members said the men were coming back from a club.

Carmelo Vazquez s sister Antonia said he didn t like to drink, but the others did.

Troopers are investigating whether Tax was drunk. Sgt. Smith said beer cans and bottles were found both inside and outside of the car after the crash, but they don t know whether they were from that night.

They will know more after they can talk to Tax, who had just gotten out of surgery at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem late Sunday night.

He could face a number of charges in the deaths of his two friends.

Flores is recovering at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

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