Kayla "2 Drunk 2 Care" Mendoza: No Charges Yet in Wrong-Way Crash
The lives of three young women, all in their early 20s, unexpectedly intersected on the westbound lanes of the Sawgrass Expressway last November 17. Twenty-one-year-old best friends Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante were in a red Toyota heading west at 1:45 a.m. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Kayla Mendoza approached driving her boyfriend's white Hyundai at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, traveling east in the westbound lanes.
The young women collided a quarter mile from the University Drive exit in Coral Springs. The case drew worldwide attention when it was revealed that Mendoza had Tweeted "2 drunk 2 care" shortly before the collision.
Now, almost four months after that ill-fated night, Mendoza has still not been criminally charged.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol search warrant, at 1:47 a.m. a 911 call informed FHP that a white Hyundai was traveling the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway. Two minutes later, FHP was advised that the wrong-way vehicle was involved in a fiery head-on collision. An FHP trooper arrived on the scene 21 minutes later, where the trooper noted that Catronio had died from her injuries in the passenger seat and that Ferrante was seriously injured in the driver's seat (she was airlifted to Broward Health North but succumbed to her injuries four days later). Mendoza was sprawled in the driver's seat of the Hyundai unconscious but breathing. Worried that his daughter Marisa had missed her 2 a.m. curfew, Gary Catronio tracked her cell phone to the exact location of the crash on the Sawgrass Expressway and arrived on the scene to experience every parent's worst nightmare.
At 3:23 a.m., an FHP trooper went to Room 17 of Broward Health North to collect blood samples from Mendoza. There, "[the trooper] observed Ms. Mendoza with serious injuries and unconscious at the time," the search warrant states. The blood drawn was taken approximately two and a half hours later, at 4:20 a.m. FHP homicide Investigator Linda Banks also learned that the hospital had obtained blood and urine samples within two hours of the crash for Mendoza's treatment.
Mendoza's toxicology report wasn't released until early January. It reveals that while Mendoza might've been "2 drunk 2 care," she was definitely too drunk to drive. A police affidavit states Mendoza's BAC was 0.15 -- nearly twice the .08 level for drivers 21 years or older and nearly eight times the 0.02 legal limit for those under 21. Traces of marijuana were also found in her system.
The Sun Sentinel reported on December 6 that state prosecutors "are actively working the case." However, in an email to New Times last week, FHP spokesperson Mark Wysocky says, "The Sawgrass crash remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed at this time."
Kim Fontana of the Broward State Attorney's Office confirmed on March 11 that no criminal charges have been filed and that state prosecutors are currently waiting for FHP to formally present the case.
The search warrant stated that FHP's Banks requested that two blood vials be drawn from Mendoza because she is suspected of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and driving without a license causing death.
Mendoza reportedly suffered two broken legs and until mid-December was being treated at a rehabilitation facility for bone fractures and a blood clot in the brain.
In early December, the families of Catronio and Ferrante filed civil lawsuits against Mendoza for wrongful death, punitive damages, and hospital expenses. Mendoza's fiancé, who owned the white Hyundai, is also named, along with the restaurant Tijuana Taxi Co., where Mendoza was reportedly unlawfully served alcohol (although a Tijuana Taxi Co. co-owner has denied Mendoza was ever there).
"We are not going after anyone," Brett Panter, the lawyer representing the Catronios, says over the phone. "We are seeking justice; that's the way we look at it."
Catronio and Ferrante were best friends since grade school and attended Palm State College together. Catronio is described as a fashionista with a fondness for country music, her terrier, and baking. Ferrante, on the other hand, paid for tuition by baby-sitting and wanted to be a neonatal nurse one day.
On the cusp of the four-month anniversary of the November accident, the families of the victims work tirelessly to promote measures preventing wrong-way collisions from ever occurring.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.