MIAMI (CBSMIAMI) – A horrific car crash claimed the lives of three people Tuesday morning in Southwest Miami-Dade.
One of the victims, Karina Diaz, was a beloved teacher at The Creative Learning Center in Kendall.READ MORE: Living Large: 1000 Museum Boasts Penthouse With South Florida's Only Helipad
She, along with her husband, Adalberto Hernandez Cereijo 51 and mother, Elena Chacon Diaz 75, died when Miami-Dade police said their silver Kia was struck by a Land Rover just before 6 a.m. while trying to make a turn on to S.W. 92nd Avenue on Sunset Drive.
Miami-Dade police said the driver of the Range Rover, identified as Rodney Rodriguez, 24, had been drinking.
Records show he’s been arrested before for traffic offenses including careless driving.
“We are all in shock. We are all at a loss today,” said Emilu Alvarez, the Program Director at The Creative Learning Center. “We are all in mourning today. My families have shown an outpouring of love, an outpouring of concern.”
Diaz had worked at The Creative Learning Center for the last five years as a toddler teacher’s assistant, helping children who are two and three years old.
“Miss Karina accepted those children with every individuality, every difference, every uniqueness, that those children possessed. She not only was a person that gave herself to children, but she also gave herself to co-workers also. She was there for everyone,” said Alvarez.
The crash site now has a growing makeshift memorial that is lined with flowers, balloons, and candles.
Diaz, her husband, and mother were in a silver Kia and were driving the mother to dialysis treatment when they were struck.
Miami-Dade police said a South Miami officer had tried to pull the driver of the speeding Land Rover over as he sped off the Palmetto Expressway and onto Sunset Drive, but they say he kept going westbound and struck the Kia. Surveillance tape from a nearby business captured the fiery collision.
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“It was three innocent lives, Karina, her mom Elenita, and her husband Adalberto. Karina was a cancer survivor and she did not let it affect her during the pandemic. She wore a mask at all times,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez also spoke out about drunk driving.
“We want them to be aware of the loss and how everyone should be responsible,” she said. “We know people should be responsible for all of their actions.”
Diaz leaves behind a 20-year-old daughter who also works at the school.
“Her whole life was in that car. Her mother was her inspiration,” Alvarez said.
Adalberto Diaz was the woman’s stepfather. Alvarez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that the daughter’s biological father drove to southwest Miami-Dade from Ft. Myers and is now taking care of her.
She said her aunt, who is Diaz’s sister, is also flying to South Florida from San Diego, California.
So far the driver of the Range Rover has not been charged.
He was transported to Kendall Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery. Detectives plan to speak with him.
Friends of the victims continue to flock to the makeshift memorial with balloons and flowers.
Cida Lopes broke down in tears as she said, “We are so emotional. This is so sad. This is such a loss. I feel bad for them. They were lovely people. He was my husband’s best friend. We are super sad. They were our friends. We loved them. We are so sad about this loss.”MORE NEWS: Police: Glades Middle School Teacher Arrested After Pursuing Romantic Relationship With Former Student
A GoFundMe page has been established through the Creative Learning Center Facebook page to help the daughter and family members with burial and other expenses.