Early last Sunday morning, around 6 am, Adam "Baby" Cox, 23; Jeremy "Kid Killer" Gage, 21; and Matthew "Matt Lock" Fitzgerald, 20, of local band the Exploding Hearts were killed in a car accident. After playing a show at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill, the band members were returning to Portland, along with their manager, Rachelle "Ratch Aronica" Ramos, 35.

Just outside of Eugene on Interstate 5, Fitzgerald, who was driving, apparently fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the van as it veered onto the road's gravel shoulder. The van flipped twice. Of the five passengers, Ramos was the only one wearing a seatbelt. Gage and Cox were both thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, and Fitzgerald died later in the hospital. Ramos and guitarist Terry Six, 21, both survived with minor injuries.

Well known in the Portland music scene, the Exploding Hearts were just beginning to garner a great deal of attention, showing up recently on the covers of Maximum Rock and Roll and Shredding Paper. There were rumors about a possible record deal with Lookout! and a live performance on a TV talkshow. The mutual enthusiasm between the Hearts and the music world broadens the scope of those mourning the losses to include family, friends, and fans.

The tragedy is made particularly shocking by the youth of the victims, whose dancey bubblegum punk exuded enthusiasm and energy. It also comes uncomfortably close on the heels of other recent accidents that have struck members of the Portland music scene. This summer alone, Orion Satushek from Spooky Dance Band and The Reeks & The Wrecks was killed when a drunk driver plowed through a group of bicyclists. His bandmate, Caroline Buchalter, was also injured in the accident. Last week Josh Skins from Systemwide was also critically injured in a hit and run accident (see "In Other News").

In an effort to garner some meaning from this catastrophe, benefit shows are quickly being organized to aid the families and friends of the victims with whatever help they may need. Those whose lives have been touched by the victims and by their music are invited to honor both the memories and verve of these three musicians.

Benefit Shows: The Diskords, The Spits, Meow Meow, 527 SE Pine, Wednesday, 7 pm, donations, all ages; The Minds, The Riffs, King Louis, and The Epoxies, Dante's, 1 SW 3rd, Wednesday, 10 pm.