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Permanent memorial dedicated to paramedics killed in DUI crash

Posted at 7:33 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 20:26:52-04

A permanent memorial now hangs in honor of two paramedics killed in a crash with an accused drunk driver.

On Wednesday, Jupiter Medical Center invited family and friends of Paul Besaw and Lahiri Garcia to dedicate a plaque in their memory.

The ceremony comes just a day after the driver who killed them was found to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

Besaw, 36, and Garcia, 51, were long-time veterans of American Medical Response. They were killed while on a call when police say a car making a U-turn pulled right in front of them.

"I love you, brothers... I'm always here for you," said Joe Robertson, an AMR coworker. "When you think of Paul and Lahiri you don't think of coworkers, you don't think of friends, you think of family."

The plaque now hangs over the EMS lounge at the medical center.

"If you ever wondered where they were, we always made jokes to just find a coffee machine," said Daryl Ilardi, an AMR supervisor. "If it wasn't for the Besaw family, I wouldn't be in this position today. They came to the school for career day. And I was highly motivated. They challenged anybody and everybody."

All morning, about 100 family and friends shared hugs and memories.

"I've been with AMR 28 years and I think the last two weeks with the company have been the most difficult. Dealing with the loss of two of our family members is about the hardest thing we've had to do," said Kevin Meehan, an AMR supervisor.

Besaw's father delivered a touching speech to the crowd, praising his son.

"They always gave 110% no matter what type of call it was," said Bob Besaw. "My son and Lahiri learned from each other. And Lahiri told me one day, in the 20 years he's worked at AMR Paul taught him more in one year.  I'm proud of my son. He was a great father and husband."

Paul's mother, Denise, who also works in the operating room at JMC, said Paul comes from a family of life-savers.

"I was an EMT in the state of connecticut. My husband was an EMT, his aunt, his uncle. He just was always around it," she said.

She said Paul was born to be a paramedic.

"As a kid, him in the neighborhood and other kids would play ambulance. They would take a chair and keep it folded and use it as a stretcher. And they'd use an old nintendo box and use it as a defibulator. They'd use a funnel as a mask," she said. "When he was 14, he started volunteering here in the ER and he volunteered so much they had to tell him he couldn't work more than 40 years a week."

Paul's wife, Dawn, was moved by the show of support from the community.

"He touched all of their lives. And for everybody to come out and support him, it's very overwhelming," she said. "He was so funny and so genuine. He was just an angel on this earth."

Both men leave behind young children. Paul's 5-year old little girl, Allison, brought the crowd to smiles and tears when she took over the microphone and sang her favorite song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Dawn said Paul had been gearing up for his annual daddy-daughter dance with Allison.

"The night that he was supposed to come home was the dress rehearsal for the daddy-daughter dance. So it was very shocking," she said. "Her world has been turned completely upside down since her dad was taken from us so tragically."

As Jupiter police pursue DUI charges against the other driver, both families are hoping to find justice.

"My husband was very adamant against drinking. We don't drink," she said. "I mean, you get in your car drunk and you drive. And you've just taken the life of someone that did nothing but save lives. I mean, how do you explain that?"

Jupiter police said DUI charges against the driver of the other vehicle, Genaro Ajqui, are pending. A search of Ajqui's criminal record in Palm Beach County showed a ticket in fall 2016 for driving without a license. He is still in fair condition at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

Dawn said she also wants to start a foundation in Besaw's and Garcia's memory.

"I'm sure there are other kids whose parents were killed by drunk drivers so maybe we can get the kids together for camp and do therapy," she said.

But for now, the Jupiter community is trying to help both families to heal.

"We love you, we're here for you. And we'll always be here for you," said John Couris, CEO of Jupiter Medical Center.

Lahiri's family requested not to be interviewed for this story.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for to help the families of Garcia and Besaw. Click here for more.