NW MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – One man is dead in what the Florida Highway Patrol suspect was a hit and run accident on Okeechobee Road in northwest Miami-Dade.
According to investigators, a Toyota with three people inside was heading south on Okeechobee Road just after midnight when it may have been sideswiped near the Florida Turnpike Extension. The driver lost control and plunged into a roadside canal.
“In a matter of minutes our car was sinking,” said survivor 29-year Dager Duenas Gonzalez.
Gonzalez and his wife, Ladys, were able to make it out of the car to shore.
“When I got out of the car I panicked, The first thing I thought of was my wife’s life,” said Gonzalez. “I never thought my uncle was drowning.”
Their uncle, 50-year old Gilberto Duenas, also made it to the surface, but became fatigued and sank back under water. His body was found by rescue divers under water near the car. Gonzalez was rushed to Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah where he was pronounced dead.
Gonzalez said his uncle, who came here on a raft from Cuba in 1994, worked as a tow truck driver. He added that he was a hard worker and a good father to his four children.
“He was a tremendous person, he was a very hard worker,” said Duenas cousin Noel Duenas. “I’d like to find who’s responsible because the kids are fatherless.”
Hialeah Fire Rescue personnel said this was a difficult rescue for their divers.
“The conditions were terrible because it is probably 25-feet deep and the weeds were probably a good 15-feet, so we were obviously tangled in the weeds most of the time,” said firefighter on the scene.
FHP troopers found an abandoned and damaged GMC Envoy parked about a quarter mile from canal.
“So far we have some paint transfer that does match the vehicle that was submerged in the canal,” said Trooper Nelvys Hernandez.
A check of the vehicle’s registration listed an address in Naples. Investigators are now looking for the driver.
By late Wednesday afternoon, there was no word from FHP as to whether those investigators had found the owner of that SUV.
“If he’s watching, he should turn himself in,” said Duenas, “He’s left a family without a father. It’s not easy.”
“Now we have to make funeral arrangements,” Duenas told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “This is very hard for us.”
If you have any information about this case, call Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).