MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Five people were killed in a wrong-way crash that shut down the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 at Miami Gardens Drive early Wednesday morning.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Sanchez said Alexandra Lefler, 23, of California, was driving in the far right express lane going the wrong way when she sideswiped one car and then hit another head-on, killing a family of four in that car and herself.
Authorities said the driver and small business owner, Miguel Gil, 47, and his mother, Gisela Egui Hernandez, 71, had just picked up his sister and brother-in-law from Miami International Airport after they had arrived from Connecticut. The couple has been identified as Gisela Gil Egui, 48, who is an associate professor at Fairfield University, and Jose Martin Labrado, 47, who worked at Housatonic Community College.
"On behalf of the staff and faculty at Fairfield University, we are saddened to learn about the tragic death of Dr. Gisela Gil-Egui and her family. She was a beloved member of our faculty and community who will be greatly missed," Temple University President Jeffrey P. von Arx said in a statement. "Dr. Gil-Egui was a delightful friend, an enthusiastic and inspiring colleague, and an accomplished academic, receiving her B.A. from Universidad Central de Venezuela, and her M.A. and Ph.D from Temple University."
Miguel Gil's wife told Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez that her husband was a hard worker and kind man. His stepdaughter said he and her mother knew each other since they were 13 years old.
"For 30 years he loved me...he was the best man in the world," Ynes Omana said.
Omana and other family members questioned why crashes like this keep happening on I-95.
"He's not the only one who has died in a wrong-way crash on I-95," Omana said.
"I think it's unacceptable, a car going the wrong way on an interstate or highway," another relative said. "For sure something can be done to prevent that. Unfortunately for us it will be in the future."
Investigators said Lefler was driving a white pickup truck that overturned during the impact.
"The accident was so severe that rescue had a very hard time removing the bodies," Sanchez said.
According to Sanchez, someone spotted the driver and called 911 just after 12:45 a.m. He said two of the victims were ejected from the backseat of their car and weren't wearing seatbelts.
Sanchez said it's unclear where Lefler got on to the highway.
"In many occasions, it's people that are probably either drunk, or on drugs or they just basically aren't from the area and they make a wrong turn and they don't read the signs," Sanchez said.
The victims who survived the crash were identified as Katherine Warsch, 27, who was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, Nameer Khattab, 58, who was driving a KIA Optima and Joao Carabajal, 58, who was driving a 2015 Ford TT.
According to an incident report, Warsch, who is a newlywed, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Khattab also suffered minor injuries and was taken to Aventura General Hospital. Carabajal was not injured in the crash.
Warsch's husband told Local 10 News that his wife is still shaken up after she crashed into a median while narrowly avoiding the wrong-way driver.
"I don't think there's a single trooper out there that wants to knock on anybody's door at 3 (or) 4 in the morning and tell you that a loved one is not coming home again," Sanchez said.
It's unclear at this time whether alcohol was a factor in the crash.