MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A bus with dozens of passengers crashed into a a strip mall Thursday morning in Miami while trying to avoid an SUV. Now, police are saying the driver of the SUV should not have been on the road.
Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that the driver of the SUV, 34-year-old Natashus Registe of Northwest Miami-Dade, was cited for failing to yield for a stop sign and having an expired tag and no proof of insurance.
Registe, who lives just eight blocks north of where the accident happened, was also arrested because of an outstanding bench warrant on an unrelated charge.
The accident happened at 1500 NW 36th Street when the bus slammed in to South Florida Store Fixtures.
A packed bus, according to police, was headed westbound on NW 36th Street at 15th Avenue when the driver of the SUV ran a stop sign and caused the crash.
In an attempt to avoid the a crash, investigators said the bus driver, 36-year-old Michael C. Randolph, swerved and lost control knocking through a palm tree in front of a warehouse store.
“It crashed and it started smoking and everything,” said passenger Rhina Irias. “People fell, they flipped and they had to open the window to come out of the window. My glasses flew off and everything fell.”
The bus was filled at the time of the accident. Zabaleta said 22 people were injured and roughly 20 people were transported to area hospital. Most were treated for minor injjuries.
Bus crash victim Angel Rivera told D’Oench, “I have pain in my neck and my head. I felt the crash and I hit my head and I felt dizzy. The car jumped in front of the bus and the bus driver honked on his horn. The driver of the car insisted on cutting in and then we ran in to the building.”
Rivera said he injured his head, neck, back and a knee. He was able to walk away from Jackson Memorial Hospital after he was treated.
According to Jackson Memorial Hospital, around 3 p.m. Thursday, 15 patients were at Ryder Trauma Center and the JMH emergency room. The hospital said 13 are listed in good condition and two are listed in serious condition.
Emergency crews helped evacuate victims and treat patients including multiple high school students.
“It was horrifying. I thought I was gonna die,” said Charles Canoe, one of the victims. “I am just thanking God I am alive right now.”
Nearly all of the injuries were minor except for the bus driver who had to be taken to the trauma center.
“First units arrived found some people that were climbing out of the windows, some people walking out the rear door with cuts and bruises and we also had several other people that were unable to get out of the bus,” said Ignatius Carroll with City of Miami Fire Rescue.
The bus driver was trapped by metal window bars that ended up inside the bus.
“Fire crews had to use some tools to free him and he was transported to the hospital,” said Carroll.
The 14-year-old daughter of the driver of the SUV was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Two people are at Mercy Hospital. The rest were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Barry Leventhal, the owner of South Florida Store Fixtures, was out of town and in Baltimore, Maryland when members of his family called him and told him about the accident.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was mind boggling. I found out about it from my sister and my mother. I have been here for 15 years and we are a fixture there.”
Leventhal said the building was insured and he planned to rebuild. He estimated the accident caused a half million dollars worth of damage.