As a little girl, every time Johana Arias left her home, she kissed her mother on the cheek and said: “I love you.”
It was a ritual Zoraya Alvarez still shared with her daughter, who graduated from Southwest Miami Senior High last month.
On Tuesday night, Alvarez’s only daughter left the Westchester apartment they shared for the last time. Arias, 18, was killed in a car accident in southwest Miami-Dade.
Arias was driving with four other friends in Olympia Heights just after midnight Wednesday.
Alvarez, who had told Arias she didn’t want her staying out too late, received a call from her daughter about 10 minutes before the incident.
“I’m dropping off some friends and I’ll come home soon,” she said.
Authorities said at 1:17 a.m., Arias came to a stop sign at the intersection at Southwest 52nd Street and 87th Avenue when a Chevy Trailblazer t-boned the left side of her mother’s Honda Accord.
Arias was pronounced dead at the scene. The impact was so violent rescue workers had to use the Jaws of Life to free her passengers, Korrinne Rabassa,18; Tony Rodriguez,19, and two others who have not been identified.
All were rushed to Kendall Regional Hospital with serious injuries.
Also trapped in the wreckage was the driver of the Trailblazer, Noemi Hernandez, 45, who had been southbound on 87th Avenue. As she neared the intersection, the Trailblazer slammed into Arias’ left side and pushed the Honda into the median.
Hernandez was also taken to Kendall Regional Hospital with serious injuries.
No charges have been filed yet in the fatal crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Records show Hernandez has had a series of minor traffic violations — one as recent as June 1 for failing to stop at a red light.
On Thursday, family gathered at the young woman’s home in a one-story apartment complex in Westchester.
They described her as “high-spirited” and a young lady with a lot of friends.
Mercedes Cepero, who lives in the same complex, remembered Arias as a gardener. She liked to tend flowers outside of her home. Inside of her home, she also took care of things.
Mother and daughter were close, said Martin Cala, Alvarez’s boyfriend: “I take care of you, and you take care of me” was their motto. When Arias was 3, her mother brought her to the United States from Medellín, Colombia — and it wasn’t easy. “Her mother fought a lot for her.”
Arias spent most of her short life separated from her father, who lives in Colombia. Although they had a distant relationship, Arias contacted him recently because she had plans to visit her native country this year.
“She was waiting until after her birthday, on July 30, to go visit her dad,” said her father’s cousin, Jhan Arias. “Her father was very happy.”
After her trip, Arias planned to take medical-related classes at Florida International University.
“It’s very painful,” said aunt Patricia Alvarez, who spoke for the girl’s mother who declined to speak at the moment. “She was our angel.”
A wake for Arias will be held on Friday.