MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Driving along I-95 in North Miami-Dade Monday, George Morffiz had a blowout and pulled his white pickup off into the emergency stopping lane to change the tire. He called his good friend, former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez, to come help him.
“Suddenly, this car came, probably a hundred miles per hour, and hit us in the emergency lane,” Morffiz told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Friday. “We both go flying in the air”
Martinez, mayor of Hialeah in the early 1990’s, remains in intensive care at Ryder Trauma Center. His condition was initially reported as being critical, although the family has asked the hospital to release no additional information. Morffiz is walking with a limp, and lucky to be alive.
As the two men worked to fix the flat tire on the Southbound interstate near 95th street, the driver of a black Honda lost control and veered into the emergency lane, rear-ending Morffiz’s truck, which in turn smashed into Martinez’s red Mercedes that was parked in front of it. Martinez was pinned between the truck and the Mercedes. He was gravely injured.
“His injuries were big, because he was crushed between the two cars,” Morffiz said. “Crushed between my car his car.”
The driver of the Honda who lost control, a West Palm Beach man, has been charged with failure to stay in his lane. Morffiz believes the charges should be more severe, given that the man swerved well off of the highway to hit his truck. Morffiz quotes a witness at the scene as saying the Honda driver had been weaving in and out of traffic lanes just prior to the impact.
“It was careless, reckless,” Morffiz said.
In the day, Julio Martinez, now 71, mingled with the powerful. His Facebook page features photographs of himself with the likes of former Vice-President Dan Quayle and former President George H.W. Bush.
CBS4 News interviewed Martinez when South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela died in December last year. Martinez was among many mayors who snubbed Mandela’s 1990 visit to Miami because of his friendship with Fidel Castro.
“I wish Mr. Mandela had taken back those words, calling Castro ‘my brother.’ That would have made a big difference,” Martinez said in the interview. Twenty three years later, he refused to apologize for not welcoming Mandela to Miami.
Martinez is known for holding to his convictions and tireless public service. He most recently took a post heading the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Hialeah.
“He’s a great person,” Morffiz said. “A humble person. He takes care of all of his community.”
And Monday afternoon when his friend called for help changing a tire, Julio Martinez didn’t hesitate.
“What can I tell you, he’s my best friend,” Morffiz said, eyes tearing. “I’m really sad. I’m really sad for his condition. I’m worried.”
The former mayor’s wife Xiomora and family members have maintained a vigil at Ryder Trauma. They have asked the community to pray for the long-time political, civic and business leader.