The hospital staff wheeled Marco Barrios’ stretcher into the room where his girlfriend lay.
He looked around at all the medical workers and family members, only to notice that they were all watching him.
“How is she doing?” he asked.
“How much do you know?” a nurse responded.
He knew he had been in a car accident. He knew his girlfriend — Andrea Castillo, whom he called Andy — had been in the car with him.
What he didn’t know was that the driver in the other car, the Crown Victoria that Barrios’ Jeep Compass had collided with on Oct. 19, was a Hialeah police detective.
He also didn’t know that police would blame the crash on him, pitting him against his own city’s police department as he denied many of the cop’s claims: that Barrios did not yield the right-of-way at a stop sign, that he and Castillo weren’t wearing their seat belts, that their officer wasn’t speeding.
And he still didn’t know that, just days after her 21st birthday, his girlfriend — the only daughter of newly elected Miami-Dade School Board member Susie Castillo — was now brain-dead.
When Barrios, 23, was brought to see her for the final time, the machines hooked up to Andy were keeping her artificially breathing only so her organs — her corneas, heart, liver, lungs and kidneys — could be donated.
Barrios took his girlfriend’s hand, and sang into her ear.
“Home is wherever I’m with you,” he sang, quoting the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song called Home.
Barrios could not go to his girlfriend’s funeral; he was in the hospital with a shattered pelvis, broken clavicle, cracked ribs and collapsed lung. He is home now, and the pamphlets from Castillo’s memorial service are still in his room. He hasn’t brought himself to look at them yet.
Before the crash that sent them to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, Barrios and Castillo were getting ready for her birthday celebration at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino outside Hollywood. Castillo had turned 21 the day before.
Barrios wore a new shirt, and Castillo had slipped into the new black dress he had bought her for the occasion. She had on “fancy” heels; her makeup and hair were done, Barrios remembers.
“We were waiting on one of her friends to come meet us up, and we were all going to go in my car,” he said. “So while we were waiting we decided, ‘Let’s go put gas.’ ”
They filled up the tank a few blocks from Barrios’ home, and hopped back into the car with Barrios behind the wheel.
“I remember looking at her, and laughing about something,” he said.
What happened next depends on who is telling the story.
On the day Castillo’s life-support machines were disconnected, Hialeah police held a press conference to say that Barrios ran a stop sign as he pulled out of the U-Gas station at East 49th Street and Ninth Court. They said his car came into the path of Raul Somarriba, a police detective for seven years who was driving an unmarked car. Police said they based their statements on surveillance footage and witnesses.
Hialeah police refused to comment for this article, and have not spoken publicly about the crash since the press conference.