Three teenagers in Florida who were speeding away from police after stealing a sports utility vehicle died in a horrific crash. A fourth teenager survived the accident and was currently undergoing treatment at a hospital, police said.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told a news conference that all the teenagers involved in the car theft had criminal histories and one of them was out of jail on 31 July.

He told reporters that a group of teenagers, aged between 14 and 18, had stolen a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring from a Clearwater car dealership on Thursday (3 July). One of those cars was involved in the accident, while the other was recovered by police.

The accident took place early Sunday (6 July) morning in Pinellas County, authorities were quoted as saying by NBCMiami. The three deceased were identified as Keontae Brown and Dejarae Thomas, both aged 16, and Jimmie Goshey, 14. The survivor of the crash is aged 14, but his identity has not been revealed.

Narrating the incident, Gualtieri said that some deputies spotted the two stolen vehicles early on Sunday morning and tried to apprehend the drivers. However, since the sheriff's office's pursuit policy does not allow deputies to chase stolen cars, they tried to set up a perimeter to catch the drivers. They believed the teens were using the stolen cars for burglaries.

The teens, meanwhile, sped away from the perimeter and were believed to be driving at 100m/h or more when the Explorer hit another vehicle, caught fire and went airborne. The SUV also hit a billboard pole, the sheriff told reporters. The driver of the other car hit by the Explorer suffered minor injuries, he added.

Officers found the Chrysler Sebring and arrested two teens in that car — one aged 16 and the other 18. Gualtieri said the arrested teens were being monitored under a programme for repeat offenders.