MIAMI SPRINGS, FLA. (WSVN) - Family and friends are reeling over the tragic loss of a Miami Springs gas station employee who was killed after a minivan crashed into a retention pond off the Florida Turnpike, sending his elderly mother to the hospital.

The victim’s work family at the Westar in Miami Springs are mourning the loss of their mechanic, 56-year-old Mario Laza.

Loved ones described the crash victim as a beloved friend and co-worker.

“I miss his smile, everything, how he talked, everything,” said Yusle Disperez, a friend of Laza, through a translator. “To me, we lost the light of this gas station.”

Laza’s friends shared a video on the business’ Facebook page showing him dancing, laughing and smiling.

Carlos Borras, another friend, said this is how he will remember Laza.

“We are in shock right now for this situation, but I hope he rests in peace,” he said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, at around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Laza was traveling south on the Turnpike when he attempted to exit onto Southwest Eighth Street in West Miami-Dade and lost control.

Investigators said his minivan flipped off the roadway and into a retention pond.

Riding with Laza, loved ones said, was his mother, 80-year-old Nieves Matos.

Divers searched the muddy, alligator-infested water and pulled both victims from the van.

Paramedics transported both patients to HCA Florida Kendall Hospital, where Laza succumbed to his injuries.

“I hope you are with God,” said Disperez.

Matos remains at the hospital in critical condition. Friends and family said they are praying for her as she continues to fight for her life.

Loved ones have created a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses. They wrote, “He was someone full of life, laughter and good times to share, a unique personality.”

Co-workers said Laza worked as a mechanic at the Westar for about 10 years.

7News cameras captured flowers left at the gas station’s garage door.

“You had a big heart for all of us, for everyone, a big heart. I love you very much. Although you are not here, my heart will always miss you,” said Disperez.

Copyright 2022 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox