By Kevin Deutsch
A Coral Springs Police sergeant deeply affected by the deaths of two young women in a 2013 wrong-way crash recently helped prevent another deadly collision on the same expressway, in nearly the identical spot, authorities said.
Detective Sergeant William Reid, the supervisor of the Coral Springs Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, was among the first to arrive on the scene of the Nov. 17, 2013 crash that claimed the lives of Marisa Catronio and her best friend Kaitlyn Ferrante, both 21, on the Sawgrass Expressway.
The friends were driving toward the Coral Ridge Drive exit when Kayla Mendoza, 20, drove the wrong way through an exit ramp, causing a head-on collision that killed both women. Mendoza, now in prison, survived.
On Sept. 30, 2021, Reid was able to stop another wrong-way crash in the same spot—an act of bravery that’s being lauded by both Reid’s unit and Catronio’s family.
“Detective Sergeant William Reid put himself in harm’s way to stop a wrong-way driver on the Sawgrass Expressway from what could have turned into a tragic ending,” reads a Feb. 16 Facebook post by Marisa’s Way, the nonprofit formed by Catronio’s survivors to advocate for greater highway safety.
“We at Marisa’s Way honor you and thank you for your heroic actions…May God Bless you and keep you safe.”
Investigators in the police department’s SVU also honored their supervisor with a special plaque for the September incident, during which a wrong-way driver, later identified as Edward Schwartz, drove in the wrong direction on the Sawgrass Expressway, according to an incident report.
Several officers were dispatched to the expressway around 2:05 p.m. as Schwartz steered a gray 2005 Lexus near the Coral Ridge Drive exit—the exact spot where Catronio and Ferrante died—ignoring the orders of Coral Springs motorcycle Police Officer John Stewart, records show.
Stewart used blaring sirens and his public address system to issue orders to the reckless driver. Schwartz, whose license had been revoked, ignored him and kept driving, records allege.
Disaster seemingly at hand, Reid arrived and “maneuver[ed] his police unmarked vehicle in front of the [Lexus] causing it to come to a stop,” reads the incident report.
On the plaque given to Reid by the SVU members, investigators wrote:
“For conspicuous valor at the risk of your own life on Sept. 30, 2021. Your actions in stopping a wrong-way motorist on the Sawgrass Expressway prevented a tragic vehicle crash that endangered the lives of motorists on Florida’s Turnpike System. Your selfless actions are noteworthy, and your bravery is hereby honored by the Detectives of the Coral Springs Police Department Special Victims Unit.”
The recognition came eight and a half years after Reid became “one of the first responders to the Sawgrass Expressway crash site that took the lives of our daughter Marisa and best friend Katie,” Catronio’s parents wrote on Facebook. “We know that our tragedy had a long-lasting effect on the first responders that were there on that night.”
In a moving response to their post, Reid recalled the day of the deadly crash.
“Since that day, I have jumped on the Sawgrass at University hundreds of times—and there isn’t a time I don’t think about Marisa, Kaitlin, your families, and that night,” Reid wrote. “Maybe a divine hand placed me in that same location 8 years later—literally, it was the exact same spot. I was seconds too late in 2013—and I am sorry.”
“It is impossible to know what would have happened if this driver was allowed to continue his path…but I know if lives were saved on 9/30/21, Marisa and Kaitlin were with me—guiding my actions and decisions.”
“CSPD Motor Officer John Stewart is also deserving of recognition,” Reid added. “John was able to locate the vehicle on his motorcycle, and his updates made the intercept of the wrong-way driver possible.”
Reid also posted a tattered memorial photo of Marisa Catronio, apparently kept since her funeral.
Reid, a 24-year veteran of the police department and U.S. Air Force veteran, formerly served as the supervisor for the agency’s Gang, K-9, and Patrol Units. He was also a member of the agency’s SWAT Team.
Schwartz, the wrong-way driver in the September 2021 incident, was charged with fleeing to elude police, reckless driving, and driving with his license was revoked. His vehicle was impounded in the interest of public safety, police said.
In seizing the car, police cited Schwartz’s numerous run-ins with their officers and his “wanton disregard” for previous attempts of family members and police to get him to stop driving, records show.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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