Motorist, 17, Arrested In Death Of Sam Kinison

They were the kind of kids to whom comedian Sam Kinison's bellowing stage persona was often said to appeal - two young men, in their late teens, driving fast in an old pick-up on a Friday night.

The cab of their Chevrolet truck was reportedly filled with beer cans as they sped through the desert on U.S. Highway 95, swerving into oncoming traffic near the California-Nevada border. Moments after hitting Kinison's Pontiac Trans-Am head-on, fatally injuring the comedian and knocking his new wife unconscious, one of the teen-agers said, according to witnesses: "God! Look at my truck!"

Yesterday, Kinison's friends said they could not believe how he had died. The 38-year-old comedian, who made his reputation as a hard-drinking, loud-mouthed wild man, had just returned from his honeymoon with Malika, the 26-year-old Las Vegas dancer he had married a week ago. He was settling down, friends said, sobering up. When he died, he was on his way to a sold-out show in Laughlin, Nev.

After the crash, which occurred near Needles, Calif., Kinison at first appeared fine, said friends who watched the crash from a second car.

With only minor cuts on his lips and forehead, he wrenched himself free of his mangled vehicle and lay down only after friends begged him to do so.

"He said, `I don't want to die, I don't want to die,' " recounted Carl LaBove, Kinison's long-time opening act, who held Kinison's bleeding head in his hands.

Kinison paused.

`But why?" asked Kinison, a former Pentecostal preacher. It sounded, LaBove said, as if `"e was having a conversation, talking to somebody else. He was talking upstairs. Then I heard him go, `OK, OK, OK.' The last `OK'was so soft and at peace . . . whatever voice was talking to him gave him the right answer and he just relaxed with it." Kinison, who police say was not wearing a seat belt, died at the scene, apparently of massive head injuries sustained when he hit the windshield.

Authorities did not release the name of the Las Vegas teenager who was driving the pickup truck, but California Highway Patrol dispatcher Tine Schmitt said he was being charged with felony manslaughter.

The teen driver sustained moderate injuries while his passenger, also a juvenile, was more seriously hurt. Malika Kinison was in stable condition yesterdayat Needles Desert Community Hospital.