Naftali Hertz Wacks Dies From Hit-and-run Crash in Florida
Naphtali Hertz Wacks, the Miami Beach lawyer who was the victim of a hit-and-run crash on the MacArthur Causeway last week, has died of his injuries.
The 57-year-old lawyer died Saturday at Jackson Memorial Hospital, four days after his car was clipped by a speeding motorist at nearly 100 mph, causing the vehicle to careen out of control and crash into a retaining wall.
In the wreck, Wacks suffered broken ribs, a severed spine and collapsed lungs. He had been driving from his South Beach home toward Miami-Dade’s criminal courthouse on Tuesday morning.
His death means prosecutors will be upgrading charges against Elia Soto, 44, who is accused of leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury.
Soto’s rental SUV was found ditched near Miami’s criminal courthouse and he was arrested one day later. Detectives say they have surveillance footage placing him behind the wheel just before the crash, as well as ditching the SUV minutes afterward.
He remains in a Miami-Dade jail pending arraignment and trial. He was also on federal probation for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Wacks was buried Sunday.
One of four siblings, Wacks was born on Sept. 28, 1959, in the Bronx, New York. He also lived in Israel and Montreal growing up.
Wacks graduated from Queens College in 1981, and later earned his law degree from the University of Miami. He stayed in South Florida and was court appointed on many cases for defendants who could not afford lawyers, but could not be represented by the public defender’s office.
“Most of his clients were poor,” said his sister, Devorah Kosowsky. “He liked helping people who didn’t have resources.”
Wacks, who was not married and did not have children, was a staunch advocate for Israel and was a member of South Beach’s Yeshiva Gedolah, 1140 Alton Rd. He often had lunch with friends from the synagogue, chatting about current events and “the beauty of the world.”
“He was extremely literate and educated,” said friend and fellow lawyer Menachem Mayberg. “He had a flowery way of describing the world about him, just so eloquent.”
Wacks is survived by sisters Kosowsky and Sari Wacks, and brother Jonathan Wacks.