Parents of Teens Killed After Car Plunges Into Canal Following Police Chase File Lawsuit Against City of Homestead

Nearly two years ago, three teens died after their car crashed into a canal after being chased by Homestead police.

Now, the parents of two of the victims, 14-year-old Rihanna Vargas and 14-year-old Terence Valdivia, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Homestead.

According to a press release issued by The Mosely Firm and Lett Law Firm, who were chosen to represent the victims’ parents, on February 13, 2021, two separate Homestead police officers chased the vehicle that Vargas and Valdivia were in after they were stopped for making a right turn at a red light without coming to a complete stop.

The release stated that at about 3 a.m. that Saturday, Officer Belinda Ramirez initiated a traffic pursuit of a black 2019 Toyota Camry that was traveling eastbound from 1200 NE 8th Street.

Homestead police said they made multiple attempts to stop the vehicle. The suit alleges that the officers did not try to aid – once the car was in the water. 

Eventually Ramirez lost sight of the car, and another officer, Sergeant Ryan Khawley, located the car and began a high-speed chase with the car that had four teenagers inside onto E Palm Drive .

As the road began to curve, the 15-year-old driver lost control of the car, mounting a curb before finally going airborne, striking several trees, and landing in the canal, the release said.

Valdivia was ejected from the vehicle and Vargas was trapped in the backseat that was then submerged under water where she died.

“Because of that Rihanna Vargas will never sing,” said the parents’ lawyer Ariel Lett. “We must hold the department and the city accountable.”

The parents allege Sergeant Khawley saw the vehicle as it sank into the canal and did nothing to intervene or render aid.

Bodycam footage released to NBC 6 Monday shows officers holding flashlights over to the canal.

The Homestead Police Department declined to answer questions about the incident, saying that the department does not comment on open litigation.

Instead the department issued a statement that said, “Our hearts and condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased.”

NBC 6 asked the Homestead Police Department if the officers are still employed and if they received any discipline, but they did not comment. 

This is a developing story. Please check back to NBC 6 for updates.