SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A teen-ager was charged with murder Thursday in the deaths of three people killed when two police helicopters collided as they pursued a stolen car.

Vincent William Acosta, 19, of Anaheim was charged with three counts of second-degree murder in the Tuesday night accident.

Under California law, people committing felonies may be charged with murder if deaths result from the crime.

''I can't tell anybody he intended to kill someone, but his behavior was reckless,'' said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Tom Borris.

Acosta also was charged with one count of felony auto theft and one count of receiving stolen property. Each count of second-degree murder carries a possible sentence of 15-years to life upon conviction.

Acosta's arraignment was scheduled for April 3, and he remained in the Orange County Jail on a $500,000 bail.

The helicopters were flying at low altitude when they collided while pursuing a stolen car.

One helicopter crashed and burst into flames, killing the two Costa Mesa police officers and civilian on board. The Newport Beach copter made a hard landing and flipped over, and the two officers on board were seriously injured.

Deputy Public Defender William Kelley, who is representing Acosta, said there was no reason to file murder charges.

''There's no way that malice can be proven,'' Kelley said. ''It's a tragedy what happened, (but) the police were not in any danger from what was happening on the ground.''

But Borris said Acosta was well aware the helicopters were overhead.

''He turned out his lights to elude them. The intention to kill is implied by his reckless behavior,'' the prosecutor said.

Killed were Officers John ''Mike'' Libolt, the pilot, and James Ketchum and civilian flight instructor Jeffrey Pollard.

Newport Beach Officers Robert Oakley and Myles Elsing were in stable condition Thursday in the intensive care unit at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, said hospital spokeswoman Jeri Wall.