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Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Three members of band Exploding Hearts killed in van crash after show

Seattle Times staff reporter

Three members of Exploding Hearts — a rising Portland pop-punk band with Seattle connections — were killed in a rollover accident on Interstate 5 north of Eugene on Sunday.

Lead singer Adam Cox, 23, drummer Jeremy Gage, 21, and bassist Matthew Fitzgerald, 20, were ejected from the van they were riding in when it went out of control and flipped two times before coming to rest at the side of the highway.

Gage and Cox were pronounced dead at the scene; Fitzgerald, who was the driver, died shortly after arriving at a hospital, said Sgt. Lang Hinkle of the Oregon State Police. Guitarist Terry Six and the band's manager, Ratch Aronica, who was the only one wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries. Both were treated at a hospital and released.

The accident occurred about 6 a.m. Sunday as the band was driving north on I-5, heading back to Portland after a show Friday night at the San Francisco nightclub Bottom of the Hill.

According to authorities, the van was traveling in the left lane when the driver apparently lost control and veered off into gravel near the median. When the driver attempted to get the van back onto I-5 he overcorrected, which caused the van to roll, authorities said.

Speed was likely a factor in the crash, Hinkle said, as early indications are that the vehicle was traveling over the speed limit.

Exploding Hearts was set to embark on a U.S. tour in September in support of its critically acclaimed debut album, "Guitar Romantic," released in March on Seattle punk label, Dirtnap Records.

Fans of the band have flooded the message boards on the label's Web site with eulogies and fond memories.

This month the band played with RC5 and The Lights at Seattle nightclub Chop Suey, and Aronica said plans were in the works for the band to play this year's Bumbershoot.

Aronica, who had managed the band for more than a year, said, "I really want people to remember them, and I want them to know how hard they worked and how special they really were.

"The other thing in my mind, of course, is how am I going to survive without them."

Tina Potterf: 206-464-8214 or tpotterf@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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