Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante were returning home from an outings Sunday at 1:45 a.m. when a driver heading the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway slammed into them between University and Coral Ridge Drive. Catronio was pronounced dead on the scene, authorities said. NBC 6's Myriam Masihy reports.
A Facebook picture taken in August shows a smiling Marisa Catronio celebrating her 21st birthday with her close friend Kaitlyn Ferrante. Giselle Sanchez went to high school with both girls and says they were always together.
"Kaitlyn and Marisa were best friends, inseparable, " Sanchez says explaining the girls would always go out together.
Catronio and Ferrante were returning home from one of those outings Sunday at 1:45 a.m. when a driver heading the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway slammed into them between University and Coral Ridge Drive.
Florida Highway Patrol Spokesperson Sgt. Mark Wysocky says the vehicle was traveling eastbound on the westbound lanes of the Sawgrass Expressway.
"The vehicle came upon a Toyota Camry , struck the Toyota Camry head-on and the passenger of the Toyota Camry was pronounced dead at the scene," Wysocky said.
That passenger was Marisa Catronio, who died just three months after her 21st birthday celebration. In tears her father Gary Catronio tells NBC 6 "please hug your kids tonight because I can't hug my daughter anymore."
While Marisa's grieving family is left to make funeral arraignments, her friend Kaitlyn who was driving that night is fighting for her life at Broward Health North. In the same hospital, the 20-year-old alleged wrong way driver Kayla Mendoza is listed in serious condition.
Javier Hernandez went to school with Mendoza in Hallandale Beach and says she is a nice young woman.
"I don't know how she ended up going the wrong way, that's crazy," Hernandez said.
Troopers are now trying to determine how she ended up driving in the wrong direction. That's the same question the victims' family and friends have.
"I just don't really understand how it happened," Giselle Sanchez says.
"My little girl is not here any more because of the negligence of a driver driving on the wrong side of the highway," Gary Catronio says.
His family tells NBC 6 they are contacting local leaders and asking that physical barriers be installed to prevent people from hopping on an expressway in the wrong direction.
FHP troopers say they are still waiting for the results of a toxicology report on the alleged wrong way driver. Charges are still pending.