Anniversaries are usually happy occasions marking the date of some spectacular event in the lives of a family. For the families of 21 year-old Kaitlyn Ferrante and 21 year-old Marisa Catronio, this month marks the anniversary of a terrible early-morning wrong-way accident that ended their young lives.
At approximately 1:45am, Ferrante and Catronio were travelling on the Sawgrass Expressway when they encountered a vehicle driven by 20 year-old Kayla Mendoza Who was operating against the flow of traffic. The impact of the collision killed Catronio instantly while Ferrante succumbed to her injuries several days later in the hospital. Mendoza, whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit suffered minor injuries, claims no recollection of the accident and has pleaded not guilty to DUI Manslaughter and Vehicular Manslaughter charges.
The lives of three young women and their families have been irrevocably changed due to a bad decision. Mendoza had worked earlier that day and attended an after-work gathering with co-workers. During the night, Menodza, who was underage at the time of the incident, reportedly drank two large margaritas with several tequila shots and then tweeted “2 drunk 2 care.” Her manager escorted her to her vehicle and allowed her to drive away where she proceeded to drive east bound on the west bound lanes of the highway where she collided with Ferrante and Catronio.
Mendoza reflected on the accident and her involvement, “And when I found out that not only did I get into an accident but the two girls that I got into the accident with passed away, it just really made me wonder why I didn’t too. Those beautiful girls are not here anymore and it’s because of me.”
The Ferrante and Catronio families have taken this tragedy and are using it to build awareness to the incidence of wrong-way accidents on our state’s roadways recently holding a rally at a local high school addressing the need to watch signage, wear seatbelts, adhere to posted speed limits, and above all, not drink and drive.
As the story developed, it also became apparent that the City of Coral Springs and the Florida Highway Patrol had to work out some jurisdictional issuesthat may have led to the failure of earlier intervention:
CALLER: “I’m on the Sawgrass and there’s a guy driving on the other side of the road.”
911 DISPATCHER: “Ok. Let me give you the number for Florida Highway Patrol.”
The victims’ families expect to meet with the Coral Springs Police Chief to engage in discussions as to how to avoid this happening in the future. A spokesperson for the Coral Springs PD confirmed that they are working with the Florida Highway Patrol to upgrade the protocol for handling calls on the Sawgrass Expressway.
A recent Steinger, Iscoe, and Greene blog addressed the problem of wrong-way driving on our roadways and pointed to some alarming statistics. See below for a few:
The other aspect of this accident is that the wrong-way driver was also engaged in underage drinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2011 (most recent), among high school students:
With all of the public awareness around drinking and driving and underage drinking, there continues to be the existence of the feeling that “…it won’t happen to me…” The fact is that it can happen to anyone so our firm family’s plea to our readership as the holidays approach is to be vigilant in your decision to avoid getting behind the wheel when you have consumed alcohol. Watch roadway signage to ensure you are travelling in the right direction on the highways.
Most heartbreaking is how avoidable this accident was and that the lives that were ended were so young and full of promise. The fact that the at-fault driver was underage makes this even more tragic. Three families are now left to pick up the pieces.
At Steinger, Iscoe, & Greene we have seen, first-hand, the outcomes of these terrible occurrences over and over again. The death of a loved-one is never easy, but the survival of a loved-one after having been party to an accident of this magnitude can be even more devastating. From the hurdles of physical recovery to the financial strain on the family, the damage is almost incalculable. Our firm is here to help pick up the pieces. If you or a loved-one needs advice after an accident, contact one of our offices for a free case evaluation.