updated 7/14/2007 7:18:49 PM ET 2007-07-14T23:18:49

Text messages were sent and received on a 17-year-old driver’s cell phone moments before the sport utility vehicle slammed head-on into a truck, killing her and four other recent high school graduates, police said.

Bailey Goodman was driving her friends to her parents’ vacation home when her SUV, which had just passed a car, swerved back into oncoming traffic, hit a tractor-trailer and burst into flames. Five days earlier, the five teenagers had graduated together from high school in Fairport, a Rochester suburb.

Goodman’s inexperience at the wheel; evidence she was driving above the speed limit at night on a winding, two-lane highway; and a succession of calls and text messages on her phone were cited Friday by Sheriff Phil Povero as possible factors in the June 28 crash in western New York.

“The records indicate her phone was in use,” Povero said. “We will never be able to clearly state that she was the one doing the text messaging. ... We all certainly know that cell phones are a distraction and could be a contributing factor in this accident.”

Several minutes before the first 911 call about the crash, Goodman talked briefly with a fellow graduate trailing her in another vehicle. Two minutes before the crash was reported, her phone was used to send a text greeting to a friend, Povero said.

He sent a reply less than a minute before the first 911 call, the sheriff added.

Routine tests ruled out alcohol as a factor in the 10 p.m. crash, and police don’t suspect drug use was involved. Goodman had only a junior driver’s license, making it illegal for her to be driving after 9 p.m. without supervision or to be carrying so many young passengers.

The victims, all 17 or 18, had been cheerleaders at Fairport High. In March, the team took first place in its category at a national competition in Orlando, Fla.

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