MIAMI - A 68-year-old grandmother who died at the scene of a crash in Coral Gables on Sunday morning was remembered Monday by family and friends.
Just about a week ago, Eyder Ayala was exactly where she liked to be, surrounded by family and friends, celebrating her son's wedding.
"She loved getting together. She was the matriarch of the house. She was a caring person, a loving person. She gave her all, all her life -- all her life," said her son, Jose Ayala.
Ayala said his mom was a mother of five, a grandmother of eight, and her maternal nurturing extended to her workplace, a family-run McDonald's restaurant. Owners Oscar and Gabriel Rodriguez said she had worked there for more than 20 years. They were children when they first met her.
"She was special, I mean just kind, just like a grandma to me, just always knew the right thing to say in her own gentle way," Oscar Rodriguez said.
Just after 4 a.m. Sunday morning, Ayala wrapped up her overnight shift, got into her Ford and started driving home.
Prosecutors said 19-year-old Ivanna Villanueva, a University of Miami student who had alcohol on her breath and fake IDs in her car for nightclubbing, slammed into the back of Ayala's car.
Villanueva's booking documents stated that the 80 mph impact forced Ayala's trunk into the front passenger seat, killing her.
"Everyone's devastated," Oscar Rodriguez said.
When asked what he would miss the most about his mother, Jose Ayala said, "I would say embracing her, hearing her voice and everything."
A visitation was held for Ayala on Tuesday. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Thursday night.
Ivan M. Morales, a spokesman for the Villanueva family, issued a statement, saying, "The Villanueva family is exceedingly saddened by the events of this past Sunday and Ivanna Villanueva is grief-stricken over the accident. Everyone in the family wishes to convey their deepest sympathies to the Ayala family at this very, very sad time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
Ivanna Villanueva has been charged with vehicular homicide. Toxicology test results are pending. She is on house arrest, meaning she must wear a tracking ankle bracelet, cannot drink or drive, and can only be released to go to her classes at UM.
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