Hear from family of teen found unresponsive inside car

Published: August 1, 2021 10:17 PM EDT
Updated: August 4, 2021 5:58 PM EDT

WINK News first told you that two teens had been found unresponsive in a car in a Collier County park last Wednesday. The teens died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Now, the family of one of the teens is speaking about a life that was taken too soon.

What was supposed to be a ‘see you later’ turned into a final goodbye. Yajaira Escalante, 17, died on Wednesday at a Naples hospital after being found unresponsive in a car at Sugden Regional Park in East Naples. Investigators believe it was carbon monoxide poisoning.

“When she left with a hug and a kiss, if she would’ve known it would be her last time, she would see her, she would never let go,” said Irma Escalante, Yajaira’s mother, through a translator.

Days after her passing, her family and friends are still in shock and disbelief.

“I still text her. I still send her my memes and stuff like that. Just hoping that she texts me back and I know it’s going to be impossible,” said friend Nathaly Reyes. “Still makes me feel like she’s there.”

Jaretzi Jimenez is a friend of Yajaira’s and a neighbor of the family. “It really hurts to know she’s gone and I’m never going to spend another holiday with her.”

Yajaira was in her last year before graduation. Afterward, she planned to become a nurse. Why? Because loved ones say, she wanted to help people.

She always had a smile on her face. “The moment she would walk into a room it would immediately light up and her laugh was so contagious,” said friend Michele Cruz.

She wanted to help others the same way she helped her family. “I suffered through depression through my whole childhood and she was always there. She kept me up and I’m still here because of her,” said Jermy Escalante, Yajaira’s cousin.

Irma said her home will never be the same now that her daughter is gone. “Yajaira left an empty spot in her family and in her heart. Yajaira was not only her daughter but one of her best friends.”

Those who knew and loved Yajaira as a friend, a sister and a daughter are determined to keep her memory alive.

The family said they appreciate all the support and prayers they’ve received from the community during his difficult time. They will be holding a memorial service on Friday.

The 18-year-old driver of the car Yajaira was in died at the scene.