More than 30 young people mourned their friend Marc Epstein, 17, by the side of the Sawgrass Expressway Sunday afternoon after word spread that his body was discovered in a Coral Springs canal a day after he lost control of his new car and plunged into the water.

''We are all like a close family,'' said Joey LaRocco, 17, who grew up with Marc.

Marc's body was found at 11:48 a.m. Sunday near the expressway's Coral Ridge Drive exit by divers from the Broward Sheriff's Office. His Toyota Scion was pulled from the canal Saturday, shortly after the accident.

The popular senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs had his life together after being away for about a year, friends said. They declined to say where he had been.

On his MySpace site, friends mourned from South Florida to Blue Ridge, Ga., home of Darrington Academy, where some friends on MySpace said they remembered him.

Friend Travis Bradway, 18, who worked out with Marc at L.A. Fitness, said that when Marc returned, he had a more positive attitude and his life was structured toward doing the right thing.

''He was completely different, in a good way,'' said Bradway, who last saw Marc on Friday.

Another friend, Christina Burgio, told WFOR-CBS 4 that Marc ''just had his life on track.'' Marc told her that he wanted to hang out with the seniors more and become closer to them, Burgio said.

''He had improved so much,'' Burgio said.

By 3 p.m. Sunday, teary-eyed friends gathered on the side of the expressway near the Coral Ridge Drive exit, leaving flowers, balloons with messages like, ''We Will Miss You,'' and rosary beads. Near the damaged wire fence, a man staked a wooden cross into the ground.

Braving the afternoon rain, friends in flip-flops and T-shirts gathered to remember their handsome friend -- until police asked them to leave because of the safety hazard.

Later that night, friends planned a candlelight vigil at the accident scene and flooded his MySpace website with prayers and blessings.

Marc was returning to work about 3 p.m. Saturday on the Sawgrass Expressway after visiting his girlfriend during a break from his job as a cashier at Tunie's Nutrition Center on Coral Ridge Drive when he veered to the right near the exit.

His late-model Toyota Scion ran through a ditch, flipped over a fence and splashed into the canal. Marc was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car. He was only two minutes from his workplace.

During the day Sunday, a chaplain visited Marc's family home.

Friend Will Karvin said Marc often ate dinner with Will's family. Chicken parmesan and shrimp marinara were his favorites. The teens often ordered McFlurrys from McDonald's during late nights.

''He was one of my best friends,'' Will said.

Marc's friend Joey said Marc was funny, outgoing and good at starting campfires when the friends went camping at Markham Park in Sunrise.

''He was always smiling,'' Joey recalled.

These are some thoughts Marc wrote on his MySpace page:

''Life is short! Break the rules! Forgive quickly! Kiss slowly! Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably.. And never regret anything that made you smile.''

Still in shock, friends filled in their own comments. They promised to keep him in their hearts and look after his friends and family.

Several changed their profile names, adding ''RIP Marc.''

''. . . sorrry i didnt say loveyou back fridayyyyy,'' said one post. Another read: ''school will never be the same without you. i love you marc. stay strong up there in heaven for all of us, watch over all of us, and that we will join you one day. but until then, i'll miss you. we all will. we all love you.''