Father speaks about wrong-way crash that killed daughter, injured son

MIAMI (WSVN) - A father is speaking out just days before he faces the driver who, police said, crashed into his family’s car while driving the wrong way, killing his daughter and traumatically injuring his son.

Noel Criales spoke to 7News, Monday, about his family’s emotional recovery from the December 2015 crash that killed his daughter, confined his son to a wheelchair and injured their mother.

“I cry a lot,” Criales said.

Criales is only in Miami for a few days, to be there for the driver’s court appearance on Friday. He has been working around the clock, out of state, to pay for his son’s mounting medical bills. “He cannot be alone, never,” he said.

His son Brian, 22, had dreams of becoming a police officer before he suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash in Downtown Miami. The crash killed his 23-year-old sister, Carmen, and critically injured his mother.

“I’m going to support you all the time,” Criales told his son.

On Friday, Criales and his family will come face-to-face with Franklin Chavez when he appears in court on charges related to the crash.

Florida Highway Patrol said Chavez was driving south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 when he plowed into the Criales family head on. His headlights were not on, police said.

The family was on its way to drop off Carmen at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where a flight would’ve taken her to medical school orientation in New Jersey.

The family keeps her cremated remains at home. “She’s right here,” Criales said.

Chavez faces vehicular homicide and DUI charges. “He’s got to pay, whatever he did,” Criales said.

7News first spoke to Criales at Jackson Memorial Hospital on the day of the deadly crash, when he received a call no parent should.

“What’s this guy — why is he driving the wrong way?” Criales said. “Everybody pray for my son. I need justice.”

Brian stayed in a coma for six weeks after the crash.

The family has shared their journey every step of the way, to send a message about responsibility on the road.

“You’re gonna destroy a family if you’re driving that way,” Criales said. “You know what? You’re gonna destroy your life, too.”

While Brian makes progress, making it to his rehab appointments is a daily struggle. Money is tight and his mom, who recovered from her injuries, doesn’t drive.

Their options are limited, so the family has reached out to the public for help through a GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/uwfrk2xm.

Criales said Brian’s spirit can’t be broken. “You’re now dancing, yeah? Yeah, like always,” Criales said to his smiling son. “Everything is going to be OK.”

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