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Family outing to Marlins Park turns to panic, fear, then death after car crash

At 6:40 p.m., 14-year-old Franklin Diaz wrapped his arm around his grandfather’s shoulder, as his sister, aunt and grandmother huddled close for a picture at Marlins Park.

Grandma Esther Terrero De Diaz held two pizza boxes. The kids gripped drinks.


As the sun set, the Diaz family wandered around the massive stadium, then filed out, walking west toward their car.

A 2006 red Dodge Caravan, driven by a strickened 67-year-old Raul Herberto Ortega hurtled over a curb, through a guardrail, up on the sidewalk — leaving confusion, panic, fear, then grief.

Abrahan Diaz, who was not hit, ran to the broken bodies strewn along Northwest Seventh Street. His 13-year-old daughter, Adriana Diaz, his wife Esther and his grandson — all bloodied, on the ground. His granddaughter, Magdeline, 10, would be the only one to survive the horrific crash that also grazed a passing bicyclist.

As his family lay crumpled on the Little Havana street, Abrahan Diaz, 58, let out a scream of pain and heartbreak.

Saturday was supposed to be a vacation.

The Diaz family had stopped over in Miami for three days after a monthlong trip to the Dominican Republic. They were on their way back home to Lawrenceville, Ga.

They wanted to catch a Marlins game.

“Imagine losing your wife, your daughter and your grandson, and being the eldest to be alive,” said family friend Catarina Jimenez of Abrahan Diaz.

The family had planned to pay a visit to Abrahan Diaz’s longtime friend, Edwin Abreu, a Dominican Republic native now living in Miami.

When they didn’t show up Sunday, Abreu called, but he never got an answer. He had heard about the crash over the weekend, but he didn’t realize it was his friend’s family until Monday, when police released the names of the dead: Esther V. Terrero De Diaz, 53, Franklin Abraham Diaz, Adriana Maria Diaz and Ortego, 67, the minivan driver.

Abreu rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. By the time he arrived at Ryder Trauma Center, he would only find Magdeline in critical condition.

The others had been pronounced dead by 9:40 p.m. Saturday.

He became tearful Tuesday as he discussed the loss suffered by his friend and co-worker from the Dominican Republic.

“It’s very hard because when you know they’re alone here, you can do nothing to try to recover the life” of those lost, he said.

After the crash, Magdeline kept calling for one person: “Mom, Mom,” she cried.

Her parents, who rushed to Miami from Georgia, have been by her bedside since the crash.

After a four-and-a-half hour surgery Monday to mend fractured bones, she was in stable condition.

She had just graduated from Gwin Oaks Elementary School in Lawrenceville and showed her Broncos pride by wearing her school’s neon pink T-shirt to the Marlins game.

Her brother, Franklin, 14, loved red and wore his favorite color to Marlins Park. Having just graduated from Five Forks Middle School, he was shy, thoughtful and known for his quiet disposition.

Friends say he was following in the footsteps of his father, Franklyn Diaz, a senior software design engineer for Google.

“He was very focused like his father in studying,” said family friend Claudia Vargas. “Very intelligent. Like a normal kid.”

Adriana lived in the Dominican Republic and had returned with the family to spend some time with them.

In Miami and in their Lawrenceville hometown, family members surrounded them, arranging for Esther and Adriana’s bodies to be shipped back to the Dominican Republic and for Franklin’s body to be returned to Georgia.

As the Diaz family comes to terms with the deaths that have devastated the family, they also think of Ortega, the minivan driver, who died that Saturday evening.

“We express our most sincere sympathy and prayers to the family of Mr. Ortega, who has also lost a loved one,” according to a statement released by the Diaz family.

“Please keep our family in your prayers.”

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