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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A teen was killed when a car he was traveling in car plunged into a lake early Tuesday morning in Miami Lakes.

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It happened around 1:30 a.m. at Martha Lake off Jacaranda Lane.

The car jumped a curb and small ledge before going into the lake.

“The noise it was unbelievable and the house shook,” said a woman who lives in the house right next to where the car jumped the curb. “I see these kids coming out from the lake screaming ‘call 911’.”

The driver, 18-year-old Jonathan Perez, and passenger, 18-year-old Kevin Placeres, were able to get out of the car.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue pulled Christopher Leyva, 19, and a 15-year-old girl from the car and took them to Palmetto General Hospital where Leyva was pronounced dead. The 15-year-old, who was in critical condition, was transferred to the Ryder Trauma Center.

Jorge Perez said he awoke Tuesday to the news that one of his closest friends died in the accident.

“I was in shock. I was like shaking,” Perez said. “He was a good kid.”

Perez said the group in the car spent time at his house Monday night and then they went driving. Somehow they wound up in the lake. Perez said he was told that Christopher initially made it out of the car along with the driver and another passenger who survived but Christopher went back for a 15 year old girl still inside the vehicle.

“Chris went back down to get her and he drowned,” Perez said. “He was a hero man. He was a good kid. That was one of my best friends and it’s not easy seeing one of your best friends and family go through.”

Perez said the accident is a reminder to all to be careful on the roads. He said he’s heartbroken that the accident robbed his friend of his future.

“I’m not gonna be able to make fun of my man in school and play ball with him and have fun with my man,” Perez said. “I know he’s here, watching.

Jorge Perez said the victim attended Hialeah High with him. He said Christopher loved cars and sports and hoped to be a mechanic.

For those who lived near the scene, it was a frightening experience.

“I just saw the helicopters coming over. So I went out to see what was going on. There was a couple cars here. I came over, my son and I, and we could see the divers,” said Jean Newland.

The Miami-Dade Police Underwater Recovery Team along with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue hauled the vehicle out of the lake around 5:30 a.m. and a tow truck took it away.

“I didn’t know what was going on so I walked outside and I was told there was an accident with some young kids,” said Richie Cruz who lives in the area.

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Joanna Caro says she and her family heard the helicopters. When they walked outside, they saw the large rescue effort underway.

“We were pretty scared,” she said “When they came to talk to us, they told us a car went straight into the lake. They specified a female and a male, and they later came to tell us there was another male.”

At this point, investigators have not said what caused the accident.


More than a hundred people gathered in Miami Lakes Tuesday night to mourn the death of Christopher Leyva, killed when the car he was in went into a lake early Tuesday morning.

Mourners left candles and flowers in the spot where the car he was in jumped a ledge.

One of the most emotional moments tonight came when the family of the girl he tried to rescue met with Leyva’s mother.

“We’re so sorry,” said the family of Dezirea Joseph, a 15-year-old passenger in the car who Leyva tried to save.

Leyva’s mother said her son tried to rescue Dezirea.

“He went back,” Yamila Jaime said in Spanish. “That’s what a police officer told me at the hospital. He realized that the girl was drowning and went to save her. And he didn’t come back out.”

Leyva died and paramedics rushed Dezirea to the hospital where her family says she remains in critical condition. Dezirea’s family couldn’t say enough about Leyva’s actions.

“He’s an angel,” said Sue Ann Parkhurst, Dezirea’s aunt. “He didn’t have to go back in there for her and he did. THat’s what’s so amazing about him. For someone that young to care is beautiful.”

Leyva’s mother said her son was special.

“He was a good son, a good friend,” she said. “Great in every way. Good student. So good. All his friends loved him. You can see how they love him.”

Judging by the amount of people who turned out Tuesday night, Leyva was deeply loved. Mourners lit candles and left flowers, they hugged and shared their grief over Leyva’s sudden death. His friend Jorge Perez said Leyva was a student at Hialeah High School and he loved sports and cars. Perez said the accident should teach everyone to be careful behind the wheel and to always strive to do the right thing, no matter how hard.

“A hero doesn’t have to wear a cape,” Perez said. “They just have to do the right thing at the right time and he did that. He showed us all what a hero is.”

Leyva’s mother and his father are devastated, losing their only child. They don’t know how they’ll go on.

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“All we can do is pray now,” Yamila Jaime said. “And hopefully he watches over us.”