Students greeted with positive, handwritten messages on first day of FSA testing

It is the first day of Florida Standards Assessment testing at Dr. Manuel C. Barreiro Elementary  School and the pressure can be nerve-wracking for students.

Jennifer Caram, who part of the third-grade team at the southwest  Miami-Dade school, and other teachers came up with a unique visual way to let the kids know that they were going to rock the FSA.

The teachers wrote individualized inspirational messages to each student on their desk.

It’s the first thing the kids saw when they walked in Tuesday and it melted the stress away.

Diego Menendez beamed at what they wrote on his desk.

“It said that my teachers knew I can do good on the test, that I was a very smart student,” Diego said.

Justin Martinez said the message on his desk made him smile.

“It said to believe in yourself and be confident,” he said.

Alyssa Lopez said the message gave her extra confidence.

“Mine said focus on the test and you will do a great job,” she said.

The third-grader teachers spent most of the last teacher workday coming up with ideas for their students and making sure each message was personal.

“As a teacher you get to know about your children and a lot of the messages were  specifically for them,” Caram said.

Alyssa said the effort meant a lot to her.

“The teachers that I have teach me and believe in me and I know they want me to have a good education,” she said. 

Follow this story

BMW that struck Lyft driver’s car in Miami was reported stolen, police say

A BMW that crashed into a Lyft driver’s vehicle over the weekend in Miami was reported stolen in Hialeah, an arrest report said.

The driver of the BMW, identified as Nicholas James Castelao, 35, was arrested Tuesday on charges of grand theft of a vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.

According to the report, patient care technicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital collected Castelao’s clothing and belongings after he was taken there following the crash and found three small bags of suspected crystal meth in the right front pocket of his shorts.

Police said they also found a credit card, debit card and food stamp credit card in the names of three people.

The crash was reported about 2 p.m. Sunday at Southwest 17th Street and Southwest 25th Avenue.

Miami police said the driver of a Volkswagen Jetta, who sources identified as Lyft driver Robert Torra, had four people in his car when his vehicle was struck head-on by the stolen BMW.

Torra was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragic accident,” Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said. “We have been in contact with Robert’s family during this unimaginably difficult time, and are available to support law enforcement in their investigation.”

Miami Department of Fire-Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said two women and four men, who range in age from 25 to 35, were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center following the accident.

Their injuries range from head injuries to broken bones.

Castelao was arrested after his treatment was finished at the hospital.

Authorities said detectives are still investigating the crash, and it’s unclear whether Castelao was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the crash.

Castelao is being held at the Pre-Trial Detention Center.

Follow this story

2 detained in connection with police-involved shooting

Two people have been detained related to a police-involved shooting Monday night in northwest Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade police Detective Jennifer Capote said.

Police officers took two people into custody Tuesday morning at the Hyatt Place on LeJeune Road, near Miami International Airport.

One of the people detained, Alexander Stalling, 18, was arrested for unrelated charges.

Earlier in the month, Stalling was shot in the right hand during a shooting in northwest Miami-Dade shooting. 

A Local 10 News crew was at the scene as police led one of the handcuffed men into the back of a police car. A blue, four-door car was also towed from the scene, which authorities confirmed is connected to the investigation.

Two officers were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center after they were ambushed about 10 p.m. Monday while conducting surveillance at an apartment complex in the 1900 block of Northwest 59th Street as part of a multi-agency operation on gang activity, Maj. Hector Llevat said.

“We just heard a whole bunch of sounds. It sounded like loud bangs,” a man who lives in the area, identified only as Jim, said. “There were a lot of detectives so we knew it was bad.”

The wounded officers were rushed to the hospital in the bed of a pickup truck and were able to limp inside with the help of their colleagues.

“Some officers — some brave officers went into that hot zone, pulled them out, put them in the back of that pickup truck and brought them to safety,” Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said.

The injured officers were identified Tuesday as Terence White and Charles Woods. White is a 26-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department, while Woods is an 11-year veteran.

“They were ambushed and we’re not going to tolerate it,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

Detective Robin Pinkard said the undercover officers were ambushed by at least two armed assailants, who approached the officers’ unmarked vehicle and opened fire.

Woods, who was shot in the leg, has been released from the hospital.

“This is going to ignite a bigger fire within us to protect our citizens and communities and neighborhoods here in Miami-Dade,” Perez said.

Police said they received an anonymous tip that led them to the third floor of the hotel. It isn’t clear what involvement the men had in the police-involved shooting.

Follow this story

Family of Canadian filmmaker who died during dive files wrongful-death lawsuit

The family of a Canadian filmmaker who died while diving in the Florida Keys earlier this year is suing the dive company and its owner for negligence.

An attorney for the family of Rob Stewart held a news conference Tuesday morning in Coral Gables to announce the wrongful-death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Broward County, claims that Stewart’s death could have been prevented and that the defendants “had a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers.”

Named in the lawsuit are Horizon Dive Adventures, Fort Lauderdale-based Add Helium, its owner, Peter Sotis, and his wife, Claudia Sotis.

The lawsuit alleges that the Delray Beach couple “supervised, planned, ordered or controlled” Stewart’s final dive Jan. 31 at the Queen of Nassau wreck site near Islamorada. He disappeared shortly after resurfacing, and his body was found three days later.

Stewart family attorney Michael Haggard called the incident an “unbelievably preventable tragedy.”

Sotis passed out after getting on the boat while Stewart was still in the water, Stewart’s parents and their attorney said Tuesday.

“In the mass confusion of him passing out on the boat, no one, no one from that boat, from Horizon Divers, from Add Helium, kept an eye on Rob Stewart,” Haggard told reporters.

Stewart’s father said the dive crew lost sight of Stewart while they were tending to Sotis on the boat.

“The self-interest of Peter Sotis is the reason Rob’s dead right now,” Brian Stewart said.

Brian Stewart also criticized Horizon Dive Adventures for not having eyes in the water.

Stewart’s family is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 and a jury trial.

Stewart directed the 2006 documentary “Sharkwater.” He was in the Keys working on the sequel at the time of his death.

Follow this story