The driver accused of crashing into another car on the Sawgrass Expressway while traveling the wrong direction has been arrested, five months after the crash.
The Florida Highway Patrol took Kayla Mendoza into custody on Monday, charging her with the deaths of Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante.
Mendoza, 21, was charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter (Impairment), two counts of DUI manslaughter (unlawful blood alcohol level), two counts of vehicle homicide and two counts of driving without a license causing death.
Mendoza, who is still recovering from injuries sustained in the crash, covered her face as paramedics wheeled her into the Broward County Jail.
The families of her victims stood outside the jail, hoping to get a glimpse of her.
“I wanted her to see us,” said Christine Ferrante, Kaitlyn’s mother. “I wanted her to know we were here.”
FHP said Mendoza is the wrong-way driver who slammed into Catronio’s car. Catronio, 21, was killed and her friend, Kaitlyn Ferrante, who was driving the car, was seriously injured, but later died.
“She changed the lives of our family forever,” said Gary Catronio, Marisa’s father. “You took my baby girl. You took my wife’s best friend. You made bad decisions that night. The right decision was to have a friend drive you home.”
Investigators said Mendoza had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit after the accident along with marijuana in her blood.
In a search warrant, investigators said witnesses told them Mendoza, who did not have a driver’s license, was drinking at the Tijuana Taxi Co. in Coral Springs prior to the crash.
Mendoza also allegedly tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” just hours before the crash.
Christine Ferrante says she hopes Mendoza never gets another chance to enjoy her freedom.
“I don’t want her to ever feel the sunshine ever,” Ferrante said. “I want her to stay locked away forever.”
One of the reasons it’s been so hard for the victim’s family’s the past five months is they knew Kaitlyn and Marisa were never coming back yet Mendoza was still able to live her life.
“We need to see her in that courtroom — not wearing what we’re wearing, wearing that jumpsuit and knowing that she destroyed a life and now she destroyed her own,” said Kaitlyn’s sister, Ashely Ferrante. “She made her bed and she has to lie in this now.”
Mendoza, who was 20 at the time of the crash, was heading east in her Hyundai Sonata in the westbound lanes of the expressway when she collided with the Toyota Camry driven by Ferrante just west of University Drive around 1:45 a.m. November 17, 2013, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
At least ten drivers called 911 in the early morning hours of that day to report seeing a wrong way driver blasting through traffic at an estimated speed callers said was close to 100 miles per hour.
The Catronio and Ferrante families are suing Tijuana Taxi alleging that, “Throughout the evening of November 16, 2013 and the early morning hours of November 17, 2013, Tijuana Taxi Co., willfully sold or furnished alcoholic beverages to Kaila Mendoza, a minor not of the lawful drinking age.”