Exhibit at Florida Capitol heightens awareness of brain injuries

During the month of March, an exhibit in the grand rotunda of the Florida State Capitol featured 100 masks created by survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Brain Injury Association of Florida (BIAF) organized the exhibit, “The Faces of Brain Injury,” to raise awareness and educate the public about the needs of brain injury survivors and their families.

Each mask represented a person whose life was altered by a brain injury. Information – including the person’s job before the injury and the cause of the injury (often a car crash) – was displayed alongside the masks. The organization’s website still features more detailed stories of the survivors, including their recovery struggle and BIAF’s efforts to assist them.

One such story is that of Laurel Griefer, who was a successful young lobbyist and engaged to be married in 1988 when she walked out of a bridal shop holding her wedding dress, and into the path of a vehicle. Laurel, now 61, has lived with brain injury for nearly half her life. She relies on family and community support, and she enriches her life by volunteering.

Representative Fred Costello (Port Orange) and Senator Aaron Bean (Jacksonville) issued both Senate and House Resolutions designating March 2015 as Brain Injury Awareness Month for Florida.

To learn more about the stories of brain injury survivors, visit www.biaf.org.

Widow of slain Florida cyclist files wrongful death lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the widow of Walter Reyes, a bicyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Florida on January 21.

Maribel Reyes filed the lawsuit against Alejandro Alvarez, the alleged driver, and Rodrigo Alvarez, his father and the person to whom the vehicle was registered.

Miami-Dade police said that Alvarez had been drinking in a Miami Beach nightclub before he got behind the wheel of a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta to drive to his parents’ home in Key Biscayne. Police said that Alvarez struck Walter Reyes and Henry Hernandez on the Rickenbacker Causeway around 5:00 a.m., and then fled the scene of the accident. Reyes died at the scene, and Hernandez suffered severe injuries.

Authorities said that Alvarez initially drove to his parents’ home and attempted to fake a robbery by smashing the rear window of the vehicle with a golf club. However, police said that he then called 911 and revealed his involvement in the crash. He returned to the scene and told police that he had been driving the vehicle that struck the two bicyclists, authorities said.

In the past five years, two other cyclists have been killed in hit-and-run crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Reyes’ family said that he was out training for a bicycle charity ride to raise money for cancer research.