A South Florida father leaned on his faith and his family to help get him through his deep loss at a vigil for his 21-year-old daughter Wednesday night.
Marisa Catronio died after a car heading the wrong way slammed into the vehicle she was riding in early Sunday on the Sawgrass Expressway, authorities said. But though she is gone, her impact was long-lasting.
That was evident in Coral Springs Wednesday, where her father Gary Catronio was surrounded by a support group more than 100 strong at the vigil held at a park across the way from their home.
Through tears, Marisa Catronio’s younger brother chose to remember her skills in the kitchen.
"You want waffles, you want waffles. I was looking at her baking food all the time,"
Jesse Catronio recalled.
A coworker at Northwest Broward Pediatrics Hospital, where Marisa Catronio worked, remembered her dedication.
"She was the heart of our office," the coworker said.
Catronio and her friend Kaitlyn Ferrante were inseparable. They were returning from a night out at 1:45 a.m. when a driver going the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway plowed into the car Ferrante was driving, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Catronio was on the passenger's side and died at the scene.
Gary Catronio said his fatherly instinct led him to his child. He used a phone app to track her down.
"I said, 'My daughter's on the highway. It's a red Camry, it's got hearts on the license plate, and don't tell me otherwise'," Catronio said he told a trooper.
Now through a project called Marissa's Way, which is still in the works, her family is determined to make it more difficult for others to repeat the fatal mistake.
"One is flashing lights with a sign, that would be a sensor that if a driver does enter the wrong way, FHP would be notified immediately," said Ron Catronio, her uncle.
They plan to propose other deterrents to spare another dad, brother or uncle this kind of grief.
"[To] make some kind of a difference, so that another family doesn't have to suffer this consequence, which is just horrible,” Ron Catronio said.
The alleged wrong-way driver, 20-year-old Kayla Mendoza, remains at Broward Health North in serious condition.
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