Father of victim in wrong-way crash speaks about son's recovery

Bryan Criales, 22, undergoes surgery on skull Monday

By Erica Rakow - Reporter

MIAMI - A man remains in the hospital after a fatal wrong-way crash last December on Interstate 95, and now his father is speaking to Local 10 News about his recovery.

Noel Criales' daughter died in the crash and his son has been in the hospital for three-and-a-half months.

Criales said his children's mother is still recovering and is unable to work.

Meanwhile, Criales, who always worked two jobs to get his kids through college, has had to uproot his life in New Jersey and has spent every single night by his son's bedside at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

"God has this plan," Criales said. "My daughter left and we just got to fight for Bryan … Bryan is fighting for his life. He doesn't wake up yet."

Bryan Criales, 22, has undergone a handful of surgeries, most recently on Monday to put a piece of his skull doctors had to remove back in place. 

He is not responding yet, but he is recovering, his father said.

Bryan Criales has been hospitalized since he was pulled from his family's car Dec. 13. He, his sister, Carmen, and their mom were hit by a driver, Franklin Chavez, who troopers said was driving the wrong way on I-95.

Carmen Criales died and their mom, Elisa Diaz, was also critically injured.

"I'm passing that road every day to the hospital and I see the place where my daughter died," Noel Criales said.

Authorities said the family was on their way to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport because Carmen was flying to New Jersey to go to orientation for medical school.

Noel Criales was waiting for her at the airport, but his daughter never walked off the plane. He said the next thing he knew, he was flying to Miami, where he's been since the crash. 

"Talking about my son is the only reason why I live," Noel Criales said. "The only reason why I'm breathing and fighting to wake up."

The hard-working dad, who is living between the hospital and the Miami apartment where his children lived together, said the medical bills have already surpassed $ 2 million.

"It's hard when you see your son huge, competitive, very strong, smart, and now you see your son in the bed that you got to clean up. You got to take the pee out," Noel Criales said.

Noel Criales said it's a waiting game made up of a whole lot of hope with so many unknowns.

"We're just holding hands in faith and pray what's going to happen," Noel Criales said. "We don't know what's going to happen for real."

A GoFundMe page has been created to help the family with the medical bills.

Noel Criales said his son will hopefully be moved to a rehabilitation facility in a couple of weeks.

The father said he brought his kids to the U.S. from Peru so they'd have the best opportunities.

He said Bryan Criales dreamed of becoming a Miami-Dade police officer, and was working at Publix to pay for his way through the police academy.

Carmen Criales had just gotten accepted into medical school and their mom worked as a chef.

Noel Criales said he would like to thank all of the family's friends, family and coworkers for their support and a huge thank you to the surgeons and nurses at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Troopers said the investigation is still ongoing and Chavez has not yet been charged.

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