NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A grieving community is paying tribute to the five friends who, authorities said, lost their lives after their car was struck by a driver who was going against traffic on the Palmetto Expressway in Northwest Miami-Dade, and records show this wasn’t the motorist’s first run-in with the law.
Mourners have set up a growing makeshift memorial against a chain-link fence near the entrance ramp at Northwest 57th Avenue, feet from where, investigators said, 30-year-old Maiky Simeon slammed head-on into the Honda sedan where the victims were riding, at around 4:30 a.m., Saturday.
Sunday night, 7News cameras captured loved ones consoling each other near the memorial, as they lean on each other during this difficult time.
Mourners attached five spinners to the fence, one for each of the five victims.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the four women and one man inside the Honda were killed instantly. They were all young, ranging in age between 18 and 25 years old.
Family members said the group was out celebrating because the male victim had just been awarded a scholarship to go to college.
First responders used the Jaws of Life to extricate Simeon. He was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where he is listed in critical condition.
7News has learned the driver accused of traveling against traffic has a long list of traffic violations.
According to the Clerk of Courts’ website, Simeon was cited in 2014 for driving 109 miles an hour on Interstate 75 in Collier County. His license was suspended at the time after failing to appear and for not paying the $600 fine.
Simeon also has a long list of traffic infractions in Miami-Dade County, including tickets for driving without a license. His license was later reinstated.
Simeon’s driving record only adds to the pain that the victims’ family are experiencing as they make funeral arrangements.
The sister of victim Briana Pacalagua said the 18-year-old was the one driving the Honda. In a GoFundMe page set up to help with expenses, Pacalagua’s sister wrote, “She was always so careful on the road. But nothing could’ve prepared her or anyone for what happened … There are no words to describe how our family can cope with this loss. I love you so, so much.”
At the memorial, Pacalagua’s grandmother was seen holding on tight to one of her stuffed bears.
Karen Laverde, a friend of Pacalagua, said she had exchanged texts with the victim on the night of the crash, adding that she will miss her friend.
“She was like the nicest person out there. She always had this energy; she was always so nice,” said Laverde. “It wasn’t even her fault, you know. It was the other guy. I don’t know, and I ask God why he did that, driving the wrong way.”
The sister of another victim, identified by loved ones as Valeria Caceres, wrote in another GoFundMe page, “She was so young and full of life and loved by so many.”
A third victim, Daniela Marcano, had just turned 19 a couple of weeks ago. In her GoFundMe page, her family wrote: “She was loved by many people. She always had a smile on her face even when times were rough, and she’ll put a smile on everyone’s face that surrounded her.”
Family members of a fourth victim, Valeria Peña, wrote in her GoFundMe page that the group of friends “lost their lives due to a tragic accident caused by the irresponsibility of a driver who was going the wrong way. The void that these souls are going to leave on their loved ones is going to be huge. None of them deserved this.”
“Every person in that car had a beautiful energy, and they were all so young,” said Laverde.
7News was unable to find a GoFundMe page for the young man who was killed.
The crash remains under criminal investigation. Detectives have not specified whether or not drugs or alcohol were a factor.
If you have any information on Simeon’s whereabouts prior to the crash, call FHP at 305-470-2500.
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