Wrong-way crash victim was contractor with AAA

Friends of 31-year-old Chris Canela say he was a hero on the highway, often the one who helped other drivers in trouble. 

As he ended his shift early Tuesday morning, his life was suddenly taken in what authorities are calling a wrong-way crash.

"If you ran out of gas, he's the one that put gas in your car. If you got a flat tire...he always went on and beyond the call of duty," said friend Wilfredo Torres. 

Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol said a wrong-way driver in an SUV was traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of State Road 528 (Beachline Expressway), crashing head-on into Canela's van, killing him.

"I was devastated," Torres said. "He was just going home. I couldn't believe it. I've been crying all day. It's been very challenging."

According to AAA, Canela worked with one of their independent contractors.  The automotive club released a statement saying, in part, "While no member was involved during this incident, we are profoundly saddened by what took place this morning in Orlando..."

Eliminating deaths and injuries on our roadways is a top priority for AAA.

Torres added, "He's always been the model guy. Doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, he's a worker."

Another one of Canela's friends, Darin Ferraro, said when Canela wasn't working on the highway, he enjoyed working in film production. He hopes the driver who caused the crash is brought to justice.

"Why should he take Chris's life? Driving on the wrong side of the road, when it clearly says do not enter, there's no call for that. I love him. He's my buddy. We grew up together."

"I love him and gonna miss him," Torres said.

FHP said the other driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Investigators said charges are pending, as they wait for toxicology results.