Man who died after crashing into alligator-infested pond was beloved mechanic

There was a small tribute on Tuesday at a gas station in Miami-Dade County after a 56-year-old man who worked there died.

MIAMI SPRINGS, Fla. – There was a small tribute on Tuesday at a gas station in Miami-Dade County after a 56-year-old man who worked there died.

Relatives identified him as Mario Laza, who worked as a mechanic at the Westar gas station at North Royal Poinciana Boulevard and Curtiss Parkway in Miami Springs.

Madelyn Rodriguez, a co-worker, said he had served customers there for more than a decade and was loved by all. The memorial started after learning of Laza’s death in a car crash Friday.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Laza lost control of his minivan while trying to avoid another driver on the Florida Turnpike at Southwest Eighth Street.

Laza and a passenger ended up underwater in an alligator-infested retention pond. Snipers stood guard ready to shoot and kill alligators, as divers searched the pond.

The passenger was Laza’s 80-year-old mother who survived the crash and remained hospitalized at the HCA Florida Kendall Hospital, formerly known as the Kendall Regional Medical Center.


About the Author:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.