Loved ones mourn 5 young adults killed in South Florida wrong-way crash


Thousands amassed online to grieve five young adults who died in a tragic wrong-way crash. An outpouring of love, support and personal stories has underscored how many lives they’ve touched in the South Florida community.

Early Saturday morning, Florida Highway Patrol says Maiky Simeon crashed into another car while driving the wrong way, injuring himself and killing four women and one man. Court records show the 30-year-old has a troubled driving record.

READ MORE HERE: Driver in wrong way crash that killed 5 lost his license in 2014 after going 109 mph, records show

While the victims’ names have yet to be released, FHP Lt. Alejandro Camacho says their ages ranged from 18 to 25.

Family and friends identified the five through social media posts and GoFundMe campaigns as Valeria Cáceres, Valeria Peña, Daniella Marcano, Briana Pacalagua and Giancarlo Arias.

Four GoFundMe fundraisers collectively raised over $33,000 as of Sunday night. The Miami Herald could not find a GoFundMe fundraiser for Arias.

Their loss spawned countless comments, stories, photos and videos on social media, offering a glimpse into how they impacted their community.

Lesly Mejas was one of many who penned a heartfelt sendoff about the group. Thousands rallied around her message offering condolences and sharing personal memories about the young adults.

Today 5 lives are no longer part of this earthly plane, 5 lives full of dreams, goals and purposes today will no longer be part of us,” she wrote in Spanish. “It hurts a lot to know that such young and talented people will not be able to achieve what they had one day dreamed but it hurts me more to know that family, friends and all their loved ones will have to go through immense pain.”

READ MORE HERE: Wrong-way crash on Palmetto kills five. ‘This is a criminal investigation,’ FHP says

Here’s a small window into the lives of the five young adults chronicled by families and friends:

Daniella Marcano

Daniella Marcano always had a smile on her face even when times were rough, her friend Mariana Rave wrote on GoFundMe.

“Dani was a lovely, amazing, cherish, happy and the most sweetest person ever,” she said.

Turning 19 just a few weeks ago, Rave says Marcano had many goals and dreams that she will no longer be able to achieve.

“Every one of us have a bunch of good memories with her and we will cherish those moments like if it was today,” she said.

Gretchen, a friend of Marcano, took to Instagram to pen a heartfelt message about the memories she shared with her along with a compilation of videos and photos of the two and other friends.

“I wish i would have gotten one last hug from you (your hugs were always the most genuine and real), I wish i would have gotten one last conversation with you and just appreciated your beautiful soul more,” she wrote. “I am so extremely thankful to have met you and to let me be part of your life angel.”

On Marcano’s last Instagram post, hundreds used it as a place to give a final goodbye.

Leslie Villalba wrote, “Rest in piece baby you had such a kind heart and a smile we will never forget, you will be missed.”

The GoFundMe created by Rave has already raised more than $14,000, with a donation goal of $20,000. The funds will be used for funeral and memorial costs.

Jenny Henao, a Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher, wrote on the GoFundMe that all her former teachers at Christina M. Eve Elementary are grieving. “We are so sad and praying for her mom,” she said. “RIP our beautiful angel in Heaven.”

You can support her family by donating on the GoFundMe here:

Valeria Cáceres

Valeria Cáceres was adored by many, her sister Isabella Espin wrote on GoFundMe.

“She was so young and full of life and loved by so many,” Espin said. “Remember to always drive safe and let the people that are the closest to you know that you love them.”

Cáceres had a dream of becoming a photographer, her friend “Bxbyartz” posted on Instagram.

You were going to start going to the gym with me, I believed in you in your dream of being a photographer, our plans to go to New York to visit Giancarlo who left with you,” she wrote. “You both are in paradise now, Giancarlo painting the beautiful skies and you laughing and taking photos of his works of art… I will always carry them in my heart.”

“Bxbyartz” was the subject of three photos Cáceres had taken and posted on an account she made for her photography work.

Dozens expressed condolences on Cáceres most recent Instagram post.

The GoFundMe created by Espin has already raised more than $7,000, with a donation goal of $20,000. The funds will be used for funeral and memorial costs.

You can support her family by donating on GoFundMe here:

Briana Pacalagua

Briana Pacalagua had the power to put a smile on the face of anyone who met her, her sister Kiara Pacalagua wrote on GoFundMe.

“My sister was a kind, lovely, amazing, sweet, caring and happy person,” she said..

Kiara knows her sister was always careful on the road and that nothing could’ve prepared her or anyone that night, she said.

As her younger sister and “little best friend,” Kiara described Briana has a model sibling who was caring and loving.

“…I’m happy i was able to share a room with you, get closer to you, have our late night talks about how our days went, run errands together, be your ‘little best friend’, and just be able to call you my sister,” she wrote.

On her donation page, several shared condolences and kind words.

“She was such a sweet soul, I’m glad we had to the chance to meet,” Andrea Fernandez wrote.

The GoFundMe created by Kiara has raised more than $9,000, with the donation goal at $20,000.

“Her friends and her didn’t go alone, they were with each other till the end. Fly high babies,” Kiara wrote.

You can support her family by donating on GoFundMe here:

Valeria Peña

Arantza Gamarra, questions why Valeria Peña and her friends had to die so young.

“It broke my soul,” Gamarra told the Herald.

After hearing of the crash she broke the tragic news to Peña’s mother.

“I had never done something so difficult.”

Arantza Gamarra (left), Giancarlo Arias (middle) and Valeria Cáceres (right).

Arantza Gamarra (left), Giancarlo Arias (middle) and Valeria Cáceres (right).

Peña had a strong character, but the 17-year-old says that for the people who really knew her they saw she was a sweetheart.

Cáceres, Peña and Gamarra were “inseparable souls”, and Gamarra puts it, “We were the three musketeers.”

Through tears, she reminisced on a fond memory of the trio having a picnic at a park, laughing and planning a future where they would stay together. A future that is now an impossible feat.

Dozens gathered to comment condolences on Peña’s last Instagram post, sharing stories of how they watched her grow as a person and the kindness she brought to others.

“We will all miss you OK, you were always that friend that one wants forever in their life,” user andrezzog wrote in Spanish.

Ysmalia Urbaez wrote, “I saw how you were formed from the womb of your mother, I went to your birth and saw every growth in your life and do not understand the whys of fate… you will remain present in my mind and heart beautiful heavenly princess.”

Lesly Meija, a friend of the five, created a GoFundMe for Peña, whom she noted was always very sweet and had the best intentions with her “motivating words.”

“Her family and friends will not have the opportunity to see Vale growing,” Meija wrote. “None of them deserved this, they didn’t deserve such a short life.”

The GoFundMe has already raised more than $1,000, with the donation goal at $20,000.

Luis Quiaro wrote on Peña’s GoFundMe that he regrets not visiting her last Thursday after she told him not to spend $30 on an Uber. “I will regret doing what you told me, and not going,” he said.

You can support her family by donating on GoFundMe here:

Valeria Peña

Valeria Peña

Giancarlo Arias

Giancarlo Arias was an impassioned artist with an eye for portrait art and realism, his friends reminisced online. With an Instagram account dedicated to his works of art, his bio shared he was self-taught.

While the themes of his art varied, the way he posted it to his more than 200 followers was uniform: he shared its title, the medium used to create it and what the piece meant to him or the challenges it brought.

“An important concept I try to portray with my artwork is the representation of mental health,” he had shared in a piece called “Reflection”, which was a pencil drawing of a headless angel. “Regarding this piece, the concept covers the liberating sensation of not having to label yourself in demand of your emotions.”

Arias’ work was accepted and showcased in the Student Art Exhibit at The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum) in St. Petersburg, the Instagram account for Felix Varela Senior High School’s AP Art class shared. He also won four Gold Keys, a top honor in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

His former AP Art teacher, Heather Cipriani, wrote on her class’s Instagram page, “Gian, I never got to tell you how proud I was of you…You were such a talented role model and a beautiful soul. In my 21 years of teaching this is the first time I’ve ever felt such a loss.”

Arias was on track to attend New York University as an incoming freshman, his Instagram bio showed. Friends used his most recent post as a space to share fond memories of him.

Ana Carolina Baldizon Bermudez commented, “I cannot believe you’re not with us anymore. I always admired your talent, intelligence and noble heart… As I saw you everyday I knew you were one of those that leave a mark on those you meet.”

Giancarlo Arias

Giancarlo Arias


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