Hector Serrano buckled his three children into the family minivan before dawn Sunday. He didn't want to leave them alone while he dropped off his wife, who works the early shift at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The ride home from the Dadeland South Metrorail station ended with all three children dead after an SUV -- driven by a man with a long record of traffic offenses, including driving under the influence -- plowed into the rear of the minivan at a red light on South Dixie Highway.
The impact crushed Serrano's blue Ford Windstar like an accordion, killing Hector, 10, Esmeralda, 7, and Amber, 4.
Serrano, his left arm broken, tried frantically to pry his children from the wreckage. It was too late.
''Imagine to lose your three kids,'' a dazed Serrano said hours later, still at the scene, the intersection of Dixie Highway at Southwest 211th Street.
When his wife, Mirian, was brought to the accident scene, she collapsed with grief.
''She's destroyed,'' said Serrano, 42. ``My wife and I, now we're left alone.''
Rescuers used the Jaws of Life to extract the SUV's driver, Delrisco, 40, from the wreckage of his black Chevrolet Trailblazer. He was taken by helicopter to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson.
Troopers accompanied him to the hospital to take a blood sample to determine whether alcohol or drugs were involved, said Lt. Pat Santangelo, with the Florida Highway Patrol. Delrisco was not immediately charged.
Delrisco has been stopped and ticketed 20 times since 2001, Miami-Dade traffic records show. He was convicted once of a criminal traffic infraction: driving under the influence in 2001. His license was suspended for six months for that offense.
Since then, he has been ticketed for reckless driving, speeding, failure to stop at a traffic light and crossing a median. Many of his tickets were dismissed or a judge withheld adjudication.
Delrisco, who holds a Class B driver's license that allows him to drive commercial vehicles, was last ticketed in January 2008 for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. That ticket was dismissed.
Sunday, the Serrano family had left their Homestead house before 5 a.m. to drop off Mirian at the Metrorail station so she could go to her job as a technician at Jackson.
Less than an hour later, as Serrano was returning home with the children, the SUV slammed into the rear of the Windstar.
''There were no skid marks,'' said Santangelo, indicating that the SUV's driver did not brake.
The impact knocked the minivan across the intersection, Santangelo said. Its rear was ''crushed . . . giving the rear seat passengers no chance of survival,'' he said.
The wreckage remained in the intersection for hours while Florida Highway Patrol troopers investigated.
Now, the parents say they don't know how they will pay for the children's funeral. Serrano owns a landscaping firm, Serrano Lawn Service.
At midday Sunday, friends and neighbors stopped at the family's blue, one-story house. A stroller and car seat sat out front.
Sonia Gonzalez, who lived across the street, cried when she heard the news.
''Oh my God,'' Gonzalez said, putting her hand to her face. ``Oh my God.''
Gonzalez said the Serranos were a quiet family. Serrano, she said, often offered his lawn services to his neighbors at the minimum charge.
''We bought our houses around the same time,'' said her husband, Mike. ``They even called me uncle. They were always here.''
Alvaro Guerrero rushed to the accident scene after getting a call from a nearby merchant.
''I've seen accidents, but not like this,'' Guerrero said. ``The roof was sunken in. The tires were destroyed.''
Dried tears streaked the face of Giovanni Huerta, who was selling flowers at the side of the road.
He tied three roses -- red, white and cream -- with a red ribbon and placed them in a styrofoam cup near the intersection.
The white rose, the biggest one, was for Esmeralda.
She should have turned 8 years old on Monday.
Miami Herald staff writer Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.