A charter bus driver is facing criminal charges after an accident in December of 2012 that left three passengers dead, and many more injured, accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale report. The driver, 48, slammed a bus carrying 31 passengers into a low-hanging overpass at the Miami International Airport, and has been charged with three counts of felony vehicular homicide and charges of reckless driving. The driver is out on bond, and will be arraigned at the end of the year.
On December 1, 2012, the man was driving a 1999 charter bus to West Palm Beach for a Jehovah’s Witness assembly when he crashed the vehicle into the airport’s lower level entrance. The entrance has a clearance level of 10 feet, and the charter bus, which is almost 12 feet tall, did not make it. A long section of the roof peeled off upon impact, and a passenger riding in the bus’s top section was killed instantly. Several other passengers sustained critical injuries and were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where two others died.
Family members of the victims and the other injured passengers filed several negligence lawsuits against both the driver and the charter bus company. In the lawsuits, plaintiffs claimed that the driver’s recklessness and failure to properly judge the clearance levels posted by the entrance cost the victims their lives. The bus company was also faulted for hiring the negligent driver, and failing to provide a safe trip to the convention.
According to the state records, the driver had a valid commercial license for operating the charter bus, and was allowed to carry passengers. He did not have a prior criminal history. The bus service company he worked for also boasted no prior accidents on record, and no recorded customer complaints or issues.
The police reports say that the airport had at least eight street signs leading up to the low entrance that warned drivers about the ten-foot height limit, as well as a construction zone that cautioned drivers to slow down. Crash reconstruction work and passenger statements indicate that the bus was traveling at a little over 30 miles per hour in a 15 mph speed zone, and the driver plowed into the airport entrance without slowing down or taking heed of the posted warnings. Police took statements from several passengers who said that people on the bus tried to warn the driver that he was going the wrong way for taller vehicles, but he did not listen.
The driver, who was not injured in the crash, told police who responded to the accident that he had gotten lost trying to go north on the Expressway. He planned to make a U-turn and find the correct roadway when he slammed into the overpass. He also claimed that he saw the signs directing buses to a different route, but did not know the height of the charter bus he was driving.
Reckless or negligent driving has claimed several lives of passengers and other drivers in Florida, according to accident lawyers in Fort Lauderdale. People who plan to charter a bus or rent a vehicle and driver from companies around their area should check the company’s website for complaints or reported accidents, as well as consumer report websites to ensure that the company is reliable and hires trustworthy drivers.
At the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, our accident attorneys represent drivers, passengers, and families of loved ones who have been hurt or killed in accidents involving a reckless or careless driver. Contact David Fuchs today for a free consultation about your accident and your rights.