Wrong-way crash on I-95 in Miami kills medical student

Carmen Criales, 23, killed when cars collide

MIAMI – A woman was killed and three other people were critically injured in a wrong-way crash that shut down a stretch of Interstate 95 for hours Sunday morning, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Investigators said Franklin Chavez was driving a blue Toyota in the wrong direction on I-95 just south of the Biscayne Boulevard exit when his car collided head on with a gray Honda Civic driven by Carmen Criales, 23. Criales was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 911 caller told a dispatcher that the cars crashed in the northbound lanes.

"I think two of them are dead," he said.

Two other passengers inside the Honda -- Criales' mother, Elisa Diaz, 48, and her brother, Bryan Criales, 22 -- were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, along with the accused wrong-way driver. They were all listed in critical condition.

According to Carmen Criales' father, Criales was driving to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where she was supposed to board a flight to New Jersey to tour Rowan University, where she had received a scholarship.

Noel Criales said his daughter planned to become a doctor to help people in her native Peru. He said she was scheduled to begin classes on Jan. 16.

According to Noel Criales, Bryan Criales underwent surgery. He said his son and his ex-wife remain in critical condition.

"Who was this guy?" Noel Criales told Local 10 News. "Why (was) he driving the wrong way?"

Investigators are now trying to determine why Chavez was driving in the wrong direction, even as signs and reflectors gave warning.

"All you have to do is look at the reflectors," trooper Joe Sanchez said. "If the reflectors are shining red, that means you are going against traffic."

Miami Department of Fire-Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said multiple people could be seen laying on the highway after the crash, and one woman was trapped.

"This is where common sense comes in and using good judgment," he said.

Traffic was diverted off of I-95 at Brickell Avenue for several hours while troopers investigated the crash.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help the Criales family pay for Carmen's funeral and her brother and mother's medical expenses.

About the Authors:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.