Makeshift memorial grows at Miami Lakes crash site where teen lost his life

Christopher Leyva, 19, tried to save friend when he drowned, family says

By Madeleine Wright - Reporter

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. - Neighbors and friends have been stopping by a makeshift memorial at the scene of a New Year's Day crash in Miami Lakes that left a 19-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl seriously injured. 

Police are still working to figure out what caused the car to jump a curb, fly over a wall and plow into Lake Martha early Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday morning, Andy Garcia lifted up a picture of his friend, Christopher Leyva, who was killed in the crash.

The wind had knocked the photo down onto a candle, causing a burn mark.

"He was cool. He was just really laid-back," Garcia said. "He was a good friend. He was always there to laugh and stuff."

Garcia was among more than 100 people who came to a candlelight vigil Tuesday night to remember Levya.

Police said Leyva was in a red Dodge Neon when it ran off Jacaranda Lane into the water around 1:30 a.m.

The victims' friends said they had just come back from a party on the other side of the lake and were test-driving a friend's fast car.

"I heard it last night, but obviously, it really is dark around here at night," Gary Klemme, who lives in the area, said. 

Police said two 18-year-old men were able to escape the car on their own.

Leyva's mother said her son also escaped but went back to try to save 15-year-old passenger Dezirea Joseph, who was trapped in the car. 

"He is an angel," Dezirea's aunt, Sue Ann Parkhurst said. "He didn't have to go back in there for her and he did. That's what is so amazing about him."

Divers ended up pulling Dezirea from the water.

She survived, but her family said she has a long road ahead.

While she continues her recovery, Levya's friends at Hialeah High School, where he was a senior, are grieving over his sudden death.

"No family should ever have to go through this, but unfortunately, it is what it is. All the students in Hialeah are obviously mourning," Garcia said. 

Dezirea's family said she's showing small signs of improvement, which is giving them hope.

As of Wednesday, she remained in critical, but stable condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Leyva's family with his funeral expenses. 

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