MIAMI (CBS4) — CBS4 News has learned several victims hurt in a deadly charter bus crash at Miami International Airport have been released from Jackson Memorial Hospital. Three victims remain in the intensive care unit, and two others are stable.
The accident, which claimed the life of two men and injured more than two dozen others, could have been avoided if the driver had heeded the warning signs and pleas from his passengers to turn around.
The accident happened after 7 a.m. Saturday, December 1st when driver Ramon Ferreiro tried to enter through the arrivals area of the airport. The arrivals lane is marked with three yellow signs, one with flashing lights, which informs drivers that the overpass has a low clearance. A sign on the overpass reads “High Vehicles Stop Turn Left.”
The bus Ferreiro was driving was approximately 11 feet tall. According to CBS4 News partner the Miami Herald, when the passengers in the front of the bus realized he didn’t make the turn and was going to go under the overpass, they urged him to back up and turn around, according to the paper who spoke the daughter of a passenger on the bus.
Ferreiro didn’t, and slammed into the overpass.
Two men, Serafin Castillo, 86, and Francisco Urena, 56, died in the crash. The other occupants of the bus were taken to hospitals. As of Sunday evening, two remained in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital and 10 others were listed as stable.
Ferreiro suffered minor injuries but was not transported to the hospital.
The group on the bus was traveling from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sweetwater to West Palm Beach for a religious conference.
It’s not clear why Ferreiro ended up at the airport or why he thought the bus could clear the overpass.
Miami Bus Service, which operated the charter bus, said Ferreiro has been with them for only a few months, according to the Miami Herald. Mayling Hernandez, who owns the company with her husband Alberto, told the paper she didn’t know if Ferreiro realized the bus he was driving wouldn’t fight under the overpass.
Ferreiro was questioned by police but so far no charges have been filed.
CBS4 News checked into Ferreiro’s driving background and learned he has a valid commercial driver’s license and is authorized to transport passengers and even hazardous materials. There were no negative incidents on his commercial driving record.
In Serafin Castillo’s Sweetwater neighborhood, neighbors said they were shocked at the loss of a good friend. Marina Baldovino described him as “good people, a good man, good neighbor.”
Castillo’s grandson said Serafin was a father of two sons and grandfather of seven grandchildren who loved to help people and make them laugh. He also said he loved to be the first one to arrive anywhere he went and he thinks that’s why Castillo was at the front of the bus.
Neighbors said Francisco Urena, who also died in the crash, was a husband, a father and a good friend.
On Sunday, friends, family and fellow Jehovah’s witnesses went to Jackson Memorial Hospital to pray for those recovering.
“I just came to visit some of the brothers and sisters that are here, show some support,” said Kyria Gallardo at Jackson Memorial.
Gallardo doesn’t belong to the Sweetwater congregation, but she and several others went to the hospital to do what they could.
“I felt so sad, because they are our brothers and sisters and we are like family for all the country, all the nation, all the world, we are family,” said Gallardo.
“It comes from our heart,” said Johnny Garcia who also came to visit. “We wanted to say ‘Hi’ and see how they are doing. They’re like brothers and sisters to us. Even though we don’t know them, we wanted to have the courtesy to visit them and see if they are okay.”
Garcia said when he first saw the news of what happened he was stunned, especially after seeing the video of the bus smashed under that airport overpass, knowing that people died.
“We were all shocked, shocked because it (the warning clearance sign) said 8-foot 6. I don’t know how the driver crashed; we were all shocked when we heard the news,” said Garcia.
Garcia and the others are hoping their thoughts and prayers will bring some comfort to those recovering.
“They are like hanging in there,” said Gallardo, “Waiting for them to be better and hope they are better.”