MIAMI GARDENS (CBS4) – A man who police believe was behind the wheel of a vehicle with slammed into a Miami Gardens bus bench last week, killing one woman and injuring two others is apologizing to his victims tonight in a video statement exclusively obtained by CBS4 News.
“I was driving down 199th, a lady swerved and cut me off and me trying to keep from hitting her, I hit the people on the bus stop. I never meant to hit those people on the bus stop,” said Mark Derefaka in a video clip he recorded himself and gave to CBS4’s Summer Knowles.
Derefaka, 29, also said he was the one who orchestrated the rescue effort of the man who was pinned under the car.
“I wasn’t drunk. My blood came back and I wasn’t drunk. The only thing I’m guilty of I was driving without a license. That’s the only thing I’m guilty of. I didn’t mean to hit those people, and i’m sorry,” said Derefaka. “I’m not a bad guy. Yes, I’ve done time in prison and I’ve served my time. You know? That’s why I’m out here right now you know, and I apologize to all the people involved and their family members.”
Derefak 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.
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.
“We’re not gonna leave no stone unturned,” said Heddie Vereen, whose mother Mary Smith, 83 died in the crash. “It’s God’s will my mother is gone, and its God’s will that whoever needs to be punished, will be punished.”
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.
Miami Gardens Detective Carlton Coleman said it could take several weeks for sophisticated blood test results to come back from the crime lab.
CBS4 News has also learned that Derefaka had no valid driver’s license. Vereen says 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.
Derefaka has been released on $75,000 bond.