It started with the collision of a car and SUV in the wee hours of Sunday in Southwest Miami-Dade.
Two 17-year-old girls were in the car, a red Toyota. A 68-year-old woman was driving the SUV. A passing motorist stopped to help them.
And then another vehicle crashed into the stopped cars, killing the teens and the man assisting them, Miami-Dade police said. Two other drivers were taken to the hospital.
The accident occurred at Southwest 56th Street and 157th Avenue.
The motorist who tried to help the girls, Eduardo Hernández, was returning home with his father and his 8-year-old son after they had watched a boxing match at a relative’s house, said the family’s lawyer and Hernández’s high school friend, Robert Pelier.
Hernández was only a couple of blocks from home as he approached the crash scene, and got out to help the girls in the Toyota, Caroline Agreda and Anapaula Saldana.
Hernández’s father, Bernardo, asked his son to just call police, but Hernández insisted on stopping to help, Pelier said. A second driver, Rolando Jiménez, also stopped to help.
Jiménez said the girls, who were in the middle of 56th Street, also known as Miller Drive, asked him to let them use his phone. He said several other drivers had also stopped, but remained in their cars, and that eight or nine onlookers were on the sidewalk.
“Everyone else was on 157th Avenue kind of waiting to see if anyone was hurt. Very few cars passed,” Jiménez said in an email. “The girls had ‘no idea what happened.’ ”
“Without asking, they told me: ‘We are not drunk right now, we are not drunk,’ ” Jiménez said in an interview later, but he observed that their behavior was erratic.
He said their car had entered the intersection against a flashing red traffic signal while the SUV’s driver was crossing it with a flashing yellow light.
“Judging by where their car was, they had run the flashing red light and hit the SUV,” Jiménez said.
After the girls used his phone, Jiménez went to check on the SUV’s driver, Josefa Quiñones.
While he was walking toward the SUV on the opposite side of the road, he stopped for a few seconds to talk to Hernández, who told him that he had urged Quiñones to stay in her car because she was in pain.
“The woman was calling me: ‘Son, come over here, please,’ ” Jiménez said.
As he walked toward the woman, he heard a loud car horn.
“Someone was flying down Miller going at least 80 mph and didn't see the accident or have enough time to slow down,” Jiménez said.
According to Jiménez, the driver of the fourth car, later identified by police as Christopher Masferrer, 30, crashed into the Toyota, swerved into the median and then hit Hernández, who was a few feet away from Jiménez, before crashing into the SUV.
“The car was coming toward me and I managed to get out of the way just before he hit the SUV and stopped,” Jiménez said.
Quiñones and Masferrer were taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center, Miami-Dade County police said.
Police spokesman Alvaro Zaboleta said investigators were looking into the roles alcohol and speed might have played in the accident.
“I am still shaking. A man got run over in front of my face,” Jiménez said. “I am so blessed to be alive right now.”
Hernández, 45, was married with three children, 8, 13 and 16 years old, Pelier said. Hernández, born in Cuba, worked for Coral Gables’ parking department, he said.
“He was a great dad, son and husband,” Pelier said. “He had to get up at 3 in the morning because his job required him to be at the office at 4. And despite how tiring that could be, he was an active father, very involved in all of his children’s activities.”
Pelier said Hernández ran marathons and loved classical, soul and house music, and went to the Winter Music Conference last month in Miami Beach.
“He was very proud of his ethnicity, was proud of having Cuban parents and very proud of his children,” Pelier said. He said that after arriving in the United States from Cuba, Hernández lived first in New Jersey during the mid-1980s.
In the early 1990s he moved to Miami, seeking a better life for his family.
“He could have easily gone on his way at 3 a.m., with his son tired and sleeping in the car,” Pelier said. “Yet he stopped instead. It was just a manifestation of who he was. He is a hero.”