They passed the day leisurely, playing soccer, then shopping at Prince George's Plaza, according to people who knew them. For Kennedy Santos Milla, 28; Jose Santos Ramos, 30; and Elmer Guevarra, 33, it was a chance to relax.

By 7 p.m. Sunday, the three friends -- two of them best buddies, having grown up together in El Salvador, and Milla, who acquaintances believe was from Honduras -- were traveling south in the middle lane of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, near Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, in a 1992 Jeep Laredo.

On the other side of the mostly empty street, Paul Gill, 23, of Tilghman in Talbot County, was driving his silver Mustang GT when he suddenly lost control of the car, hit the median strip and went airborne, according to Montgomery County police. The Mustang landed on the hood of the Jeep Laredo and sliced through its top, said police Cpl. Gary Lewis of the department's collision reconstruction unit.

All three men in the Jeep were killed: the driver, Milla, of Wheaton, and Ramos and Guevarra, both of Rockville, who were "the closest of friends," said Ramos's godfather, Bartolome Castillo.

Gill was taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda with minor injuries, Lewis said, adding that the crash is under investigation and that no charges had been filed against Gill. Lewis said police are awaiting the results of Gill's blood alcohol level test.

Messages left for Gill yesterday were not returned.

Four years ago, Ramos moved to the Washington region, where he alternated between working in a restaurant and spending summers working outdoors, where the pay was better, said an uncle, Jose Vicente Ramos.

About six months ago, Guevarra followed his old friend, staying in the Rockville bungalow where Ramos and others were living, Jose Vicente Ramos said.

Yesterday, Jose Vicente Ramos drove a borrowed white Honda with four other family members from Northern Virginia to the home where the two victims lived in Rockville. He stood outside the bungalow, shaking his head and repeating in Spanish, about Ramos, "He was such a good guy. Such a good guy."

Guevarra's wife and young daughter live in El Salvador, said Castillo, and Ramos had come to America to earn money for his mother, father and five siblings who also live there. Castillo is the best friend of Ramos's father, and Sunday night, the father was told of his son's death.

"But his mother doesn't know," Castillo said. He said Ramos's mother is very sick, and the family worries that the news "would destroy her."

The accident is one of an increasing number of collisions in Montgomery this year, said police spokesman Derek Baliles.

From Jan. 1 to June 14, 2003, 23 people were killed in 19 collisions in the county, compared with 37 deaths in 29 crashes during the same period this year, he said. Sunday's crash was the third this year in which three people were killed.