Family remembers driver killed in Polk crash - FOX 13 News

Family remembers driver killed in Polk crash

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WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) -

It's an amazing story of survival and tragedy. Three young men were inside a car when it flipped into a ditch in Winter Haven early Thursday morning.

A garbage truck driver saw the car and called for help. They rescued the back-seat passenger, 22-year-old Robert Edwards. He survived because his head stayed above water.

However, the driver, 25-year-old Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, and the front-seat passenger, 23-year-old Taylor Bowden, both drowned.

Bowden is the grandson of former FSU head coach Bobby Bowden. The case is getting national attention as investigators look into whether alcohol may have played a role in the crash.

Meanwhile, the driver's family spoke exclusively to FOX 13. Henrique and Gabriel Valim remember their brother Rafael. They asked us not to show their faces, but instead focus on Rafael and how he lived his life full of zeal.

"Everyone who knew him loved him and he had nothing but love to give to people also," said Henrique. "He was somebody with a vision."

An architecture student at UF, Rafael was someone who thought outside the box.

"He loved design and he loved architecture, especially sustainable design."

Their house is filled with Rafael's endless projects, including a floating table and a breathtaking garden, which were all built by their brother.

"Rafael was always a gift giver. Since he was a little boy, he just loved to get you a gift just to see the smile on your face. He just liked to make people happy," Henrique explained.

He made a beautiful piece of woodwork for his parents during Christmas bearing a cross -- a symbol of the faith the family shared growing up in the Winter Haven Catholic community, along with Taylor Bowden and Robert Edwards, who were both in the car with Rafael when it crashed.

"We all attended Catholic school together; we all went to church together and saw each other all the time, and it sure helps to have the faith to fall back on right now," said Henrique.

The family took one last photo together during Christmas in Michigan, just before Rafael died.

"The whole time was very magical, the short time we had."

Their thoughts now with the families of the other two young men.

"We have everybody in our prayers and we're very thankful for all the friends that have reached out to us and to the Bowden family. And I don't know if there's a way to get through this, but we're trying," Gabriel said.

"It's really a blessing that Robert survived and I think that gives me some peace to know that at least there weren't three families that lost someone," added Henrique

They struggle knowing Rafael had such a promising future, but find comfort in each artistic impression he left behind.

"He will live on for us in the things that he has already made and the things that he has given us."

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