CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) – The deaths of two young women in a wrong way crash on the Sawgrass Expressway last week has galvanized the victim’s families to call for more safety measures on our roads. Gary Catronio, whose daughter Marisa was killed in the crash, showed CBS 4 News what he wants to see done.
Catronio said he believes it’s very easy for a driver who is disoriented, impaired or unfamiliar with the area to make a wrong turn and wind up heading the wrong way on the highway. Specifically he says more and bigger signs are needed.
“This is wrong,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “This is broken. This has to be fixed.”
Catronio would also like to see better lighting to make the signs stand out. At night, you can barely make out the Wrong Way signs. He’s also suggesting LED lights on the back side of the toll area to warn drivers that they’re traveling the wrong way and he’d like the arms put back on the tolls as a way slow down wrong way drivers.
Catronio admits it might be difficult to stop an impaired driver but he says it’s worth the effort.
“There’s a chance that it could,” he said. “I really believe there’s a chance that it could.”
In a Florida Highway Patrol crash report obtained exclusively by CBS 4 News we learn that investigators believe the suspected wrong way driver — Kaila Mendoza — operated her car in an “erratic, reckless or aggressive manner.” The report also says the driver is suspected to have been using alcohol. She was tested for both alcohol and drugs, the report says. No charges have been filed at this point.
A witness told CBS 4 News that Mendoza was driving the wrong way for several miles and narrowly avoided hitting at least 20 cars and trucks. Mendoza was seriously injured in the crash and remains in the hospital. Marisa Catronio and her best friend Kaitlyn Ferrante were killed.
Gary Catronio has created a foundation called Marisa’s Way to advocate for the prevention of wrong way crashes across the country.
“It’s very important so that families don’t have to go through what we did. I will never see grandchildren from my daughter,” he said. “Do you understand that? Never.”
Catronio plans to work with state legislators to effect change. He says Marisa’s memory is at stake.
“Till we get it done to be the right way, we’re gonna fix the wrong way,” Catronio said.
The Florida Highway Patrol told CBS 4 News they still trying to figure out where the suspected wrong way driver entered the Expressway and how long she drove on the highway before the crash. Those details are important to Gary Catronio but he says what’s important now is learning from the crash and figuring out a way to stop a similar crash from happening again.