Driver In Fatal Bus Bench Crash Arrested
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South Florida Crime
MIAMI GARDENS (CBS4) – The driver who slammed into a Miami Gardens bus bench, killing one woman and injuring two others has been arrested on multiple charges related to the crash, police say.
Mark Derefaka, 29, was charged Wednesday with one count of vehicular homicide, four counts of reckless driving causing serious bodily harm, and five counts of driving with a suspended license causing serious bodily harm.
“The only thing I know for a fact that he will no longer be out there to hurt someone else but in the meantime it’s still not going to bring my mother back. She’s gone,” said Heddie Vereen, whose mother Mary Smith, 83 died in the crash.
Sources tell CBS4 News that the vehicular homicide charge was brought based on the statements of witnesses, and the conclusion of investigators and the state attorney that Derefaka’s decision to swerve to avoid hitting a car and running into the crowd of people instead showed a “reckless disregard” for their lives.
CBS4’s Gary Nelson has learned through police sources that that a Miami Gardens traffic homicide investigator immediately suspected the Derefaka was “on something,” when the crash occurred on October 25.
Police drew blood from Derefaka on the scene of the October 23rd crash at Northwest 199th Street and 2nd Avenue, because the investigator thought the driver “appeared impaired” after driving at what witnesses said was a high rate of speed into a crowd at the bus stop.
CBS4 News has also learned that Derefaka had no valid driver’s license. Vereen said she wants an explanation from Derefaka.
“What were you thinking? What were you thinking when you get behind that wheel and you know you didn’t have a license?” she asked.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Tavish Olascoaga on Monday. His mother, Wendy Vasquez, was critically injured in the crash.
Olascoaga is particularly upset after a CBS4 investigation revealed Derefaka had been convicted of 10 felony offenses committed over a period of just two and a half years. Three of the felonies were violent crimes, in separate cases, including attempted murder with a firearm. He also had a felony drug conviction.
“It’s crazy that this type of person is still walking the streets,” Olascoaga said.
“We’re not going to leave no stone unturned” said Hettie Vereen on Monday.
Vereen’s mother, 83-year-old Mary Smith, was killed at the bus stop. She was on her way to Bible study.
‘It’s God’s will that my mother is gone, and it’s going to be God’s will that whoever needs to be punished will be punished,” Vereen said.
Miami Gardens Detective Carlton Coleman said investigators are moving very deliberately with the probe of the bus stop death and mayhem.
“My heart goes out to the families,” Coleman said. “We have to get all of the evidence. It’s a very sensitive case. We have to get all of the evidence and then submit it to the state attorney.”
Coleman said it could take several weeks for sophisticated blood test results to come back from the crime lab. Derefaka is currently being held on $75,000 bond.