Filipino-AmericanStudentsKilled
Aldwin “Matt” Santayana

CHICAGO – Two Filipino-American students aboard a vehicle were killed while their driver was in critical condition when their car “traveling at a higher rate of speed” went out of control, rammed a road median and crashed onto a concrete culvert last Feb. 21 on Interstate 75, Sarasota County, Florida.

Florida Highway Patrol Crash Investigator Trooper G. K. Luh and Homicide Investigator Cpl. Jacquiline L. Stevens identified the fatalities as Matthew Aldwin “Matt” Santayana, 22, married, of Margate, Florida; and Luis M. Villena, 21, married, of West Palm Beach, Florida.

The survivor-driver was identified as Michael J. Panopio-Mones, 18, married, of Miami Florida. Ellen Fiss, Public Relations manager of Tampa General Hospital, told this reporter that Panopio-Mones was in critical condition. He was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

A report sent to this reporter by Esther Maldonado, senior clerk of the Florida Highway Patrol, stated that as a result of the impact of the crash, the 2015 Mazda car Panopio-Mones was driving, the car “vaulted into the air with the right side and roof collided with a utility pole.” The car rested on its roof.

Panopio-Mones was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. Santayana and Villena died on the spot.

Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, the report also stated.

Santayana and Villena were on their way to watch a basketball game at the Youth for Christ, a fellowship group of the Catholic Church, when the accident took place. They were students at Florida International University (FIU) where Santayana was scheduled to graduate soon from nursing. Villena was taking a course in microbiology. (jglariosa@hotmail.com)

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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