Hialeah firefighters mourn ‘brother’ whose last act of heroism was to rescue wife in North Miami

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Hialeah Fire Department veteran Crisanto Villa's funeral service was at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Miami's Little Havana.

MIAMI – The Hialeah Fire Department is in mourning. A veteran firefighter gave his life to save his wife. His last act of heroism was pushing her out of the way of a fast-moving truck. His neighbors believe it’s a tragedy that could have been prevented.

Firefighters honored Crisanto “Chris” Villa, a father of two and “brother” who served the city for 24 years. His wife, Romana Villa, a chief fire officer for the Miami-Dade Fire Department, attended the funeral service Wednesday in crutches with their two sons, Chris Villa and Leopold Villa, who is a MDFD firefighter.

There was a procession from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Little Havana to the Flagler Memorial Park in Flagami. Firefighters and police officers from other departments also attended the service. Villa died on Saturday at Jackson Memorial Hospital after he was injured on Friday afternoon.

“He was fixing his fence with his wife when a van crashed into another car and went toward him and his wife. Chris was able to get his wife out of the way of danger but was unfortunately struck. He was transported to the hospital but it was too late,” Eric Gutierrez, a colleague with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, wrote in the “Husband, Father, Firefighter and Hero” GoFundme page.

Hialeah Fire Department Crisanto “Chris” Villa died on Saturday in Miami-Dade County. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

The crash was at the intersection of Opa-locka Boulevard and Northwest Fifth Avenue in North Miami. Neighbors said there had been crashes there before and they had asked local and state authorities to do something to make the intersection safer — and no one listened.

Susset Cabrera, the city of North Miami’s communication manager, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying Opa-locka Boulevard falls under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation.

“We will reach out to FDOT to review and address traffic safety concerns on this road,” Cabrera wrote.

Edward Greene, Villa’s neighbor across Northwest Fifth Avenue, has been airing his grievances for days.

“NORTH MIAMI has failed this man [and] in my eyes they are the one responsible for his death!!!” Greene wrote on Facebook on Monday. He tagged members of the North Miami Council.

On Tuesday, 48 Hours, a national crime show, used Facebook to share the Villa family’s tragedy: “Villa and his wife were working on a fence at their home when an ice cream truck crashed through the fence.”

Greene used the public post to vent again: “Only reason he was working on the fence is because code enforcement didn’t like his patch from last accident. There was nothing wrong with that section. Thank [God] his wife is still alive. He will be missed it will be weird not seeing him across the street checking on the house. He asked for a guardrail so this wouldn’t happen. I asked for a traffic light years ago and was told no one has died yet. Well is the death DOT wanted a firefighter.”

Google Maps’ street view shows the Villa family’s corner home’s white picket fence was damaged where Greene claims a crash happened and another neighbor confirmed Greene’s account and shared his concerns.

Cabrera released a message on behalf of city officials: “We send our condolences to the Villa family and wish Romana Villa, Crisanto’s wife, a speedy recovery from her injuries. Our hearts are heavy knowing that Mr. Villa served as a Fire Fighter for the City of Hialeah Fire Department. We honor his service to the community.”

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Editorial note: Local 10 News sent a request for comment to the Florida Department of Transportation and didn’t receive a response in time to publish this story.

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.